CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY FOR BLUES!

Stockport 7 – Macclesfield 50

By Peter Harper

 

Macclesfield travelled down the road to local rivals Stockport on Saturday for a festive fixture, intent on finishing 2023 on a high, whilst keeping the pressure on Rossendale and Blackburn at the top of North West 1.

Head coach Darren Lamond named the same pack as last week, but the backs saw the return of Terence Babarinsa, making his first start as a winger with Harry Blackwell retained at inside centre and John O`Donnell keeping the 15 shirt after an impressive performance last week. Charlie Attis made a welcome return to the squad on the bench alongside Simeon Meek and the versatile Phil Laing, Sam Brown and Ollie Church making way.

Fast-hands from MOTM Tom Morton

Once again there was a stiff wind but otherwise the weather was perfect for a game of running rugby, which the Macc lads excel at, and the crowd expect. The blues kicked off with the wind behind them and immediately showed great organisation as the defensive line kept Port trapped on their own line, unable to make any ground. A speculative clearance kick from behind their own try line ended up in Tom Morton’s hands and the experienced fly half set up Sam Adu for an attacking run , however, the defence was good and in the process of recycling, the ball was spilled and the first chance of the game was gone. The resultant scrum led to a free kick to the home side with the ball reaching touch just outside the 22 metre line. A brave throw to the back of the lineout was caught by skipper James Oliver leading to the first concerted attack of the game. The ball was moved from right to left, back across to the right before coming back left again. Some great handling and running drew an offside penalty and John O`Donnell chipped ahead knowing he had a penalty to come back to if needed. He was tantalisingly close but was beaten to the touchdown by a defending player, so the penalty was awarded. Although it was bang under the posts, the Blues turned down a guaranteed 3 points as Morton went for the corner giving the Blues a perfect attacking lineout just a few metres from the try line. What followed was a textbook catch and drive to the line, where Brendan Berry controlled the ball at the back of the maul to drive over for try number one. A successful conversion from Harry Oliver in difficult conditions followed giving Macc an early 7 point lead.

Harry Blackwell scythes through the Stockport defence for Macclesfield’s second try

From the restart, Macclesfield were straight back on the attack and within a couple of minutes, after some impressive carries by both forwards and backs, Harry Blackwell spotted a gap and glided past several would be defenders to score a lovely individual try; Macc 12 Stockport 0 after 12 minutes.

An excellent performance from John O’Donnell at 15

It wasn`t long before Macc struck again as Stockport struggled to make ground on the half way line where the ball was dropped and secured by the Macc forwards. Morton sent a spiralling kick into the home 22 and the marauding Mac pack hit the ball carrier and turned the ball over, and what followed was pure magic. Another kick from Tom Morton bounced awkwardly for John O`Donnell but miraculously the full back reverse flicked the ball back inside whilst in mid-air just before he went into touch, straight into the grateful arms of Terence Babarinsa to score the 3rd try of the game. Once again, the conversion was taken away by the wind, but the game was now firmly in the hands of Darren Lamond’s team; Macclesfield 17 – Stockport 0.

In order to keep in touch at the top of the league, a bonus point win is imperative and the boys in blue were relentless in their quest to score the all important 4th try and it wasn`t too long before they were rewarded. Once again, some powerful carries combined with quick recycling led to the home defence being totally disorganised and Rhys Davies took full advantage as he cut a great line inside to take a pass from Morton and score next to the posts, Harry Oliver with the extras to take Macclesfield into a 24 – 0 lead.

At this stage, Stockport heads could well have dropped, but the next 20 minutes of the game were their best and they did their utmost to breach the Macc line, but the blues defence has been very impressive this season and the home side never looked like crossing the line. As the first 40 minutes ended, Macc were well in control and Stockport were running out of ideas. Half time; Macclesfield 24 – Stockport 0.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with the visitors immediately putting attack after attack together and it wasn`t long before a wonderfully flighted cross field kick from Morton, stood up in the wind and fell into the hands of Rhys Davies, loitering on the right wing. The big second row, did exactly the right thing as he drew the oncoming full back, before passing inside to the speedy Sam Adu to skate over for a 5th try for the away side. Harry Oliver again added the extras and Macc were 31 points up.

However, Stockport as expected, were never going to lie down and they came back strongly with a couple of carries by their big forwards. Quick ball from a ruck saw Macc on the back-foot and the Port number 12 took full advantage and broke a half tackle to break their duck and with the conversion sailing over, it was a deserved 7 points for the hosts.

Danny Martin darts over from the ruck to score

The next 10 minutes saw both sides battle for territory and possession with neither being able to make a decisive break. However, Macclesfield were then awarded a scrum around 10 metres from the Port try-line. A decent shove put Macc onto the front foot and Harry Blackwell took the ball into contact just shy of the line. Another quick ruck from the Macc pack gave the opportunity for scrum half Danny Martin to snipe from close range to score the blues 6th try of the afternoon. Macclesfield 38 – Stockport 7.

James Oliver has too much pace to be denied the penultimate try

Straight from the re start, Macc struck again with Davies catching the kick deep in the Macclesfield half, and with Charlie Attis now pulling the strings at 10, the ball was carried by just about all the backs before Harry Harding burst into the Stockport 22. Again quick ball was the key and Attis threw a long pass out to Rhys Davies who once again provided the try scoring pass, this time to skipper James Oliver loitering on the wing for try number 7 with brother Harry unable to convert from wide out; Macclesfield 43 – Stockport 7.

Harry Blackwell stretches to the line for his second try

 

Captain James Oliver crashes through to score

The boys in blue weren’t finished with the scoring yet as they pressed for the 50 point mark. From a Stockport lineout, the home side carried the ball but ran into Charlie Attis behaving like a prop as he held up the huge ball carrier resulting in a turnover and a Macc put-in at the scrum. Skipper Oliver broke from the base and Sam Adu cut through the centre before offloading a short pass to the supporting Harry Blackwell to score his 2nd of the day. Harry Oliver slotted the extras and the visitors had reached the magical half century with around 15 minutes left of the match; Macclesfield 50 – Stockport 7.

The next 15 minutes were played out with neither side being able to add to the score, however, credit must go to the Stockport team who fought valiantly and with great pride – as one might expect.

Head Coach Darren Lamond with MOTM Tom Morton and Terence Babarinsa

Man of the Match was awarded to Macclesfield number 10 Tom Morton who’s enjoying some game time after suffering from a couple of horrendous long term injuries over the past few seasons. John O’Donnell was a close second with Rhys Davies being influential all game.

Although the 2 clubs are great rivals, there`s also a great amount of mutual respect and camaraderie between the players, officials and supporters alike. So much so, that both sets of players went out in Macclesfield together on Saturday night to celebrate the festive season– a great advert for our game!

A happy Chairman and players after the 8-try win to go 2nd

Up in Rawtenstall, Rossendale ran out comfortable winners against fellow table toppers Balckburn by a score of 40 -21 with Dale bagging 5 points and Blackburn none meaning Macclesfield and Rossendale are equal on 56 points each at the top with Blackburn lying 3rdon 51.

Our next game is on January 6th v. Manchester so make sure you`re there to blow away the cobwebs after the Christmas festivities. Why not book onto the pre match lunch? Great value at £15 plus entry………..great food, great beer and banter – why wouldn`t you?!?

That just leaves me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year!

See you all in 2024 for more exciting rugby at Priory Park

Pete Harper

Proud President

#maccrugby

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