A TITANIC TABLE-TOPPING TEST

Rossendale 26 – Macclesfield 26

By David Wilkinson

 

The top of the table clash, had promised to be a mouth-watering contest, and it didn’t disappoint. Right from the whistle they ferociously went at each other, with Rossendale immediately committing the Macclesfield defence, but Macc were up to it, and when the home team went over the top at the ruck, Tom Morton was able to clear to just over halfway. Twice Rossendale’s strength and determination won them the ball back at the ruck, but Macclesfield’s defence was solid, and when they were awarded a penalty for offside they had an attacking lineout on 30 metres; they attacked well off the lineout left and right, but were penalised for crossing. Rossendale went through two big sets of multi-phased rugby around Macclesfield’s 22, and thought that they had scored, but they were also penalised for crossing.

John Tuia’s hit on Harry Harding would send him to the bin

Macclesfield attacked from the lineout, and from the second phase Harry Harding crashed up the middle but came to an immediate halt from an illegal tackle by John Tuia, which would send him to the Sin Bin for 10 minutes. The penalty took Macc to 30 metres out on the right, they attacked down the middle then switched back right, with Rhys Davies giving a switch-pass back inside to Harry Oliver running against the grain. He was tackled 5 metres out, but his would-be scoring pass was intercepted by Rossendale’s retreating Captain, Tom Bedlow, and cleared. Rossendale would win the ball back, but went backwards under the pressure of the visitor’s defence, forcing a kick to Macc’s 22. John O’Donnell, with the wind on his back, put in a towering kick to Rossendale’s 22, where Byron McGuigan, with time on his hands, and probably thinking about his counter-attack, fumbled the ball. Macclesfield were now in prime attacking position, 20 metres out on the far right.

John O’Donnell’s power is too much for Lewis Allen to stop Macc’s first score

They attacked quickly from the scrum, and after two phases, Sam Adu joined the line, throwing out a long flat-pass to Terence Babarinsa; the Left Wing sprinted to the try-line, and when stopped he had John O’Donnell to finish the move, crashing through the attentions of Lewis Allen. Harry Oliver got the extras, and it was first blood to the boys in blue, 0 – 7 after 17 minutes.

Possession exchanged hands several times around the middle of the park, with Tom Morton’s kicking forcing Rossendale back until a poor kick from the hosts, didn’t find touch on the left, around halfway. John O’Donnell gathered, and put in another monster diagonal kick, finding touch in Rossendale’s 22, for a 50-22, and possession back to Macc. The catch and drive was excellent by the Macc pack, forcing Rossendale to infringe several times. It was another catch and drive, but this time the hosts did better, and when the maul collapsed they were able to relieve pressure from the ensuing scrum.

Rhys Davies forces Matt Lamprey to knock-on with a crunching tackle

Macclesfield were penalised for holding onto the ball at the tackle, after the restart, which put Rossendale on the attack on 40 metres. They were patient in their attack, going through the phases, switching play from left to right, seeking out a weakness, rather than any set plays; until Allen saw that Macc were light on their right, and threw out a cut-out pass to take advantage. John Tuia beat the Macc tackler before dropping the ball over the head of the last defender into the hands of their prolific try-scoring Right Wing, Sam Lothian, who raced away to finish and a 5 – 7 score-line after 27 minutes.

Rossendale won a penalty for Macclesfield tackling a player on the ground, and were back in Macc’s half, after several phases Berry stole the ball and Morton cleared. This time Allen ran it with number 7 Stephens on his shoulder, spotting that Macclesfield had two forwards on the left but no winger, Stephens, ran between them, before passing to McGuigan for an easy, uncontested sprint to the line. Within a space of 4 minutes the Rossendale wingers had shown just how lethal they could be, 12 – 7 after 31 minutes.

The Macc pack drive Brendan Berry over the line for their second try

Babarinsa caught the short chipped restart, taking the ball at full speed, when he was stopped Rossendale infringed, and Macclesfield were back in a strike position. They went through two phases, and Babarinsa charged again, when he was stopped number 8 Matt Lamprey went over the ball onto his hands, but it was the Macclesfield player that was penalised. Rossendale attacked to the right, but England international Deny Solomona was stopped in his tracks by Harry Oliver, throwing the ball forward; there was a bit of Centre squaring-up – it was getting feisty! At the scrummage Macclesfield got the heat-on and Hungarian international Roland Marki, collapsed under the pressure of Simeon Meek. From the penalty Macclesfield had a lineout on 6 metres, this time their set-up was spot on, and Rossendale couldn’t contain them, with Brendan Berry, now at Hooker, touching-down, 12 – 14 after 40 minutes.

Matt Lamprey, so often the thorn in Macclesfield’s side, caught the restart, and ran it back beating two would-be Macclesfield tacklers. The ball was quickly recycled with the Macc defence sucked-infield; a long pass out to the wing found McGuigan with space to run into, his strength and speed made it look easy, 19 – 14, in the blink of an eye.

Rossendale were now in confident mood, going through the phases, looking for a weakness. When they won a penalty, in a kickable position, they went for a lineout, but nothing came of it; within minutes that got another in the same position, this time Allen went for goal but uncharacteristically scuffed the ball. After the dropout Rossendale kicked deep and Macc chose to run it out, but a long pass to Harry Blackwell, had been telegraphed by Solomona, he arrived at pace with a crunching tackle. Macclesfield were penalised but it should have gone the other way as Solomona never released Blackwell in the tackle. Rossendale were now on the rampage, and after numerous phases reached the try-line, but the Macc defence was holding its own, until a long pass out to the right found 15, Zach Stephens  to run in, on the angle, it was 26 – 14, and looking ominous, Macclesfield couldn’t get their hands on the ball.

Harry Harding hand’s-off, as he eye’s-up the hit from Matt Lamprey

But then Macc got their hands on the ball, and the tables turned. The momentum was now all with Macc, they forced Rossendale back, winning a penalty that Morton kicked to the corner. The driving maul was halted and it was Macc’s turn to pepper the line, phase after phase, and then another penalty to the corner. This time Rossendale’s Tuia, got his hands on the ball, and when it collapsed it was a Rossendale scrum; the ball was cleared, but Macc were back in possession with a lineout.  At a following ruck, Macc failed to resource it properly with no one to clear the ball. Brendan Berry ran in to do the necessary, but as he arrived and went for the ball he was hit by the sizeable Adam Howard, seriously damaging Berry’s knee. The game was stopped for a protracted period with Berry in a lot of discomfort. Howard was yellow carded, which should/could have been red, given the reckless nature, and the game eventually restarted with a penalty. For the third time Macclesfield were in the corner, battering away at Rossendale’s defence.

It was an inch perfect chip from Tom Morton that would get Macc their 3rd try

A change of tactic, Morton chipped into the dead-ball area, the ball landing less than a metre from the dead-ball line; the flight was perfect, instead of pitching out of play it bounced directly upwards, McGuigan missed it, and Harry Oliver arrived at the perfect time to catch it on the bounce and grab all of the points. It was game-on, with 15 minutes to play, 26 – 21.

Ollie Longmore touches down after Macc dominate at the catch and drive to pull level

It was still all Macc, they pressed and pressed, phase after phase, eventually winning a penalty that Morton would put back into their happy place, the left hand corner; but Macc gave away a free kick for dummying the throw-in. They attacked again but gave the ball away for a scrum to Rossendale, who chose to bring back on Adam Howard at Tighthead, up against Dan Percival, probably weighing-in 25 kilos lighter. The Referee, for whatever reason, came around to this side, and when the ball came in Macclesfield tore into them, it was a seminal moment, that demonstrated who was now in the box-seat. Morton kicked again into their happy place, and when the driving maul was stopped Macclesfield went through the phases, until Longmore spotted a chink in their armour, on the blind-side of the ruck, diving over for the score. The kick was wide out, Harry Oliver struck it well, but it was the wrong side of the upright, 26 – 26, with 6 minutes to play.

Josh DeGroot takes it on in one of the many crunching carries in the last 28 phases

The next 6 minutes were attritional, Rossendale kicked deep, and John O’Donnell ran it back, but was met by the full force of veteran Samoan international Jonny Leota, it turned into a tip-tackle with the soles of O’Donnell’s boots facing skywards, he came down head-first, with the tackle continuing. The referee seemed to be in a good position to see it, but play carried on with O’Donnell prostrate on the ground, it was sometime before he moved, and was helped from the field. The game restarted with a scum, and Macclesfield chose to keep their hands on the ball, but Rossendale’s defence was solid, forcing Morton to kick. Rossendale lost possession at the lineout, and Macclesfield went through 28 consecutive, brutal ruck phases, but couldn’t pick-open the Rossendale dogged defence. There were massive carries from all of the boys in blue, but eventually the ball squirted out from the ruck and Rossendale pounced, the break was on, it looked like McGuigan had a free run to the line, but when the ball was passed to him he couldn’t lift his right arm to catch it. At the previous ruck he had been cleaned out by Phil Laing, where the damage had been done. Macclesfield briefly got the ball back, but the Referee blew his whistle to put an end to it all.

The Macc pack bossed the game upfront

It had been a nail-biting contest, where dominance ebbed and flowed throughout the game. Both teams had their chances to take the win, but the draw had seemed a fair result. Macclesfield had succeeded to boss the game upfront, which was always the plan, but Rossendale always had an ace up their sleeve with the sheer quality of some of their players. The 3-point draw was better news for Rossendale, given that if they manage 5-point wins for the remaining 6 matches, they will gain promotion, on a better ‘points difference’. Rossendale has to drop a point somewhere for Macclesfield to have a chance, that’s besides Macc having to get a 5-point win at Blackburn! Captain James Oliver and the other 17 players had all contributed MOTM performances, but it came down to Tom Morton to win the day with his down-in-one performance!

Tom Morton seals the contest in the last play of the day

This is what Head Coach, Darren Lamond, thought when the dust had settled and the emotions lessened: “It was good for the league, the boys had trained well for it, and while they respected them, they were fearless, which I think showed throughout. Whilst it was a draw, emotionally they all felt it as a loss, as we had left quite a few points out there. The boys should be proud of their performance, and learn again from it. We now face Kendal, who will be going for it, after the two postponed games, and then Leek, who will be scrapping for points. Naturally, we are not happy about what happened to Brendan Berry and John O’Donnell, and wait to hear how bad Brendan’s injury is”.

The 2nd XV ran out winners against Rossendale, 25 – 18. It will be a 3.00 pm kick-off at Priory Park on Saturday for the rearranged Kendal game, why not book in for pre match lunch on the website:  https://www.macclesfieldrufc.co.uk/product/round-11-macc-v-kendal/

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