Macclesfield 66 – Sandbach 24

By David Wilkinson


Top versus bottom, was less of a potential banana skin, than some other matches, but none the less, a serious contest, which was evident from the start. When Macclesfield overthrew at the first line out Sandbach attacked, gaining ground with each carry, and when James Finacune broke the line it looked like trouble, but John O’Donnell collected a grubber-kick and cleared deep into Sandbach territory. When Macc got the ball back, Tom Morton kicked deep and when it was returned Morton chose to run it back returning the ball to the industrious O’Donnell who beat two tacklers before feeding it to Brendan Berry to finish it off in the 22; Harry Oliver converted from wide out, 7 – 0 after 5 minutes.

Brendan Berry finishes off what John O’Donnell started, for the first try

Sandbach gained possession just outside Macc’s 22, and went through numerous phases, but could not penetrate the home team’s defensive line, which resulted in Bach’s 9 kicking into the dead-ball area with nobody chasing. After a Sandbach charge-down, O’Donnell cleared with a big banana kick that Nick Alsop couldn’t hold onto, gifting an attacking scrum to Macclesfield. A dummy-scissor move created sufficient confusion for Harry Blackwell to brush the first tackler away before he cruised left and right to beat another two before crossing to make it 14 – 0 after 11 minutes.

Sandbach left grasping at thin air as Harry Blackwell swerves to the line for the second try

Macclesfield put together two attacks but when Terence Babarinsa was tackled the ball was dislodged and hacked up-field; whilst Sam Adu won the foot-race he failed to ground it, with Sandbach profiting. Alsop converted from wide out to get a score back, 14 – 7 after 19 minutes.

John O’Donnell has too much gas for the opposition to stop him from scoring

Sandbach were penalised for back-chat with the referee, which put Macclesfield into their 22. Numerous phases followed with several further penalties, with the team in blue opting for the lineout drive, the latter taking them over the line, but held up. They attacked again from the drop-out and the second time that Adu had the ball in his hands, he got outside his man passing to O’Donnell in support; it looked like there were sufficient defenders barring his way, but he found a channel on the outside and made it to the line for a 19 – 7 lead.

It got worse for Sandbach, when Morton cleared deep the Sandbach 9, with plenty of time, went to the air, but it was an easy ball for Babarinsa, and Macclesfield attacked again. Sandbach then gathered a similar kick, but the clearance was charged down; Harry Oliver took the ball to the line and the quick recycle found Brendan Berry on the charge, who couldn’t be stopped, 24 – 7.

The Macc Pack showing their power, driving to the line

Caption: Macclesfield’s dominant driving maul sets up Tom Burden for the 5th try

Sandbach won a scrum penalty, and attacked from the lineout 35 metres out, but when the ball was dropped in midfield, Blackwell pounced on it taking advantage that there was no one in the back-field, he chipped a perfect 50 – 22. The lineout drive was well executed, with Tom Burden coming up with the ball, 31 – 7 after 34 minutes.

Brendan Berry grabs his hat-trick of tries

The visitors had a couple of forays into the home side’s half, but they came to nothing. Macclesfield had a scrum 60 metres out and loaded the left-hand-side of the field. When the ball came back to the right, Rhys Davies beat the first defender and charged 30 metres before drawing the last defender to pass to the player that is always there in support, Brendan Berry, who finished it off with his hat-trick score, 38 – 7.

Ollie Longmore dives over from a quick ruck

The second half started as the first half had finished, Macclesfield won the restart, and immediately resumed the pressure. A Tom Morton penalty put Macclesfield back in the red-zone with an attacking lineout. James Cross made good ground, before three phases right and left gave Ollie Longmore the opportunity to dive over from a quickly rucked ball, 45 – 7.

Following the restart, Macclesfield cleared deep into the visitor’s half, but this time they ran it back, making good ground. The ball was quickly recycled left, and when it reached their big second row he simply ran in between two of Macclesfield’s best defenders; after a modest trundle he past to the left winger to finish it off, 45 – 12.

Harry drags players with him to the line before gifting it to brother James

Sandbach had a few minutes of possession, but it didn’t come to anything. Macclesfield won a penalty, and another precise kick from Morton put Macc back into a good attacking position. They attacked to the right, making good ground with every phase. Blackwell went on another thrusting run, and when the ball came back to the left it reached Harry Oliver on 30 metres, somewhat flat-footed. From a standing start he took on the defence, one-by-one dragging three would-be tacklers to the 5 metre line, where he slipped it to his brother, James, for the 5-points, and sealing the deal for himself from the touchline, 52 – 12.

John O’Donnell bags his brace after Attis’s inch-perfect, kick-pass

Charlie Attis came on for Tom Morton, who had had an excellent shift, but it would be several minutes before Attis could show his particular strings, as Sandbach went through their most prolonged period of possession, that got them close, but were ultimately dispossessed. Macclesfield were now in determined mood phase after phase they moved up the field, probing left and right; until Tom O’Donnell called for the ball on the left, Attis’s 25 metre chip was inch-perfect into his hands, for a simple sprint to the line, followed by Attis getting the bonus points from the touchline, 59 – 12.

A happy Harry Blackwell after finishing off the play of the day

It was more of the same, Sandbach endeavour versus the more clinical Macc attack. Morton had now come back on, and Sandbach were now faced with two playmakers. Macclesfield won a scrum on 40 metres, and got a good shove on, it was the perfect position to launch something special. Attis received the ball with time on his hands as players ran at him on different angles; while Attis looked at Adu the ball was flipped into the air for Blackwell to run onto at full pace, which he did. His line took him on the soft shoulder of the Fly Half, before curving back inside to go under the posts; it was the play of the day, 66 – 12.

After the restart Sandbach had another good period of possession, and although the Macclesfield defence pushed them back, they were stoic in their approach, until eventually they isolated a forward against a back. Their big Outside Centre broke free, who passed to their athletic 4, who raced to the line, 66 – 19.

Sandbach gave up the ball, whilst trying to attack from their half, and Morton raced up to play first receiver on the left, a quick phase and Morton flew out a fast flat pass to O’Donnell, who raced in for his hat-trick, but much to the annoyance of the Stand, the referee had deemed it forward. The Macc pack was awesome at the scrummage, and the penalty gave them a 5 metre lineout, but it was fluffed and Sandbach were off the hook. They were determined to keep possession in their search for a bonus-point try, and eventually got a break on the left wing. After making good ground the 11 chipped ahead into Macclesfield’s half. Again Macc fluffed the lineout, and when the ball got out to ex Macc player Nick Alsop, he made 20 metres before flinging the ball out to the wing where a charging Back Row player made it to the line for their bonus-point.

Perhaps Macclesfield had taken their foot of the gas a little, but Sandbach were worthy of their bonus-point, Macclesfield left the door ajar a couple of times and Sandbach pushed it open and took their chances. They will not want to be so generous next week; the defence will need to be rock-solid to contain Rossendale’s strong runners, which I’m sure will be one of the high lights at this week’s sessions. That said, they are in a strong position, everyone is on form and they are able to create scores at will, with sufficient possession.

Head Coach, Darren Lamond, was very pleased post match, the Coaching team had prepared well and rotation of the 18 worked well, looking after particular player’s needs: “Thankfully we got through the game with no serious injury concerns. The first twenty minutes won us the game, but when we got to fifty you could then see that Sandbach were determined to have a real go for the bonus point, and when they got their third there was no stopping them. All focus is now on Saturday, but the pressure is on Rossendale as much as us, they have 35 top-class international caps between them, and will be expected to win”.

Elsewhere at Priory Park the Women’s team had a great curtain-raiser turning over Eccles, and the 2nd XV won over Sandbach 71 – 8. Macclesfield take on Rossendale on Saturday at Marl Pits in a 2.15 kick, which will most likely be the league decider.


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