MACC TOP AFTER 7 TRIES IN THE SLUDGE

Macclesfield 41 – Leek 5

By David Wilkinson

 

It was the first time that the two clubs had played each other at Priory Park; however we have documentary evidence that possibly the first game played, between the clubs, dates back to 1876, when the Leek Secretary wrote to Macclesfield complaining about the accuracy of the match report between the two clubs in the local paper. Although they were then called football clubs it was definitely rugby that they were playing on the day.

Saturday’s match was preceded by an Under 9s contest; that did the already sodden pitch no favours, which when the rain came again, made for a challenging playing surface, and unrecognisable players after 80 minutes. The large crowd was supplemented by 120 ex players, having dined on Priory Park Pies and rugby tales a-yore.

Harry Blackwell breaks through to set up the play for the first score

Captain James Oliver crashes through two for his first try

Macclesfield went straight on the attack from the kick-off, with the ball being spun out, from a deep defensive position. Harry Blackwell crashed through the Leek defence, with his pace and guile taking him to the opposition 22. A penalty to the 5 metre line was followed by two scrums, with skipper James Oliver picking up from the scrum to power over, for a 5 – 0 score-line with less than 3 minutes on the clock.

Toby Moule rounds his opposite number for the 2nd, and his first for Macc

The second try came even quicker, a lineout in the Leek half set up a fast well-executed move with dummy runners adding to the confusion and pulling players in-field. Terence Babarinsa had looped around from the left wing, gaining the attention of the last defender, before passing to Toby Moule to score his first try for Macclesfield and a ten nil lead.

MOTM Tom Jennings flies through the tackles to create Macc’s third for Toby Moule

Leek survived the next foray and got the ball back to halfway, then kicking deep to Macc’s 22; it was fielded by Tom Jennings, back in the starting line-up after a stint in the twos. Jenno set-off at pace splitting the first would-be tacklers, weaving his way to the opposition’s 22, where he passed to Danny Martin; Danny made no mistake, drawing the last defender before setting-up Toby Moule for his brace, 15 – 0 after as many minutes.

The scrummage is too strong for Leek, as James Oliver grabs his second score

The pressure on Leek continued, and once more they had a scrum on Leek’s 5 metre line; the ball was spun out to the backs, but a fumble in midfield gave Leek brief relief. But when Macclesfield fielded the ball in their half, they ran it straight back and were soon peppering the line, several players being stopped just short. The pressure was too much and the defensive line strayed offside. The dominance of Macc’s scrum made for an obvious choice; Leek were pushed back until it was an easy enough pick-up from the back of the scrum for James Oliver to get his second, and the bonus-point, 22 – 0.

Leek, sparked into life, putting several phases together, and when Macclesfield were penalised for a chest-high tackle they got play into the right-hand corner. Again they controlled their phases well left and right, with a cut-out pass landing on the feet of the Right Wing; the ball ricocheting forward over the try-line; 15, McDermott was the quickest to react, dropping on it over the line, to put Leek on the scoreboard 22 – 5.

Leek would get another chance on the right, but put a foot into touch. Macclesfield were then reduced to 14 for ten minutes, for what the referee deemed as a high-tackle, and a second offence, although it looked like any other tackle around the middle of the body. Leek piled the pressure on, and again got close on the right, only stopped by a try-saving tackle from Elliot Alston. Leek would go through numerous phases in Macclesfield’s 22, but the home-side’s excellent defence held out until halftime.

Tom Jennings’ guile and pace finished the best score of the day

From the restart Macclesfield set-up a driving maul in Leek’s half, and even with only 7 forwards, the visitors struggled to contain them. It was now all Macc, and on 3 occasions they came close, but the conditions were now making it very difficult. Eventually Leek cleared for a brief relief from the onslaught, after Macclesfield had been penalised for some chatter. Macclesfield had had total domination in the scrum, and yet twice they were penalised when pushing Leek backwards; added to which a certain amount of ‘niggling’ had entered the game, which Leek were getting all the decisions on; and again Macclesfield were penalised for a high-tackle, which Harry Harding looked dumfounded about. Leek had another good period of industrious play, but again could not find a chink in Macc’s defence. A big clearing kick from Tom Morton, would give Macclesfield possession again in the visitor’s half; and from a scrum on halfway they pulled the trigger. Jamie Harrison, on debut from Sedgley Park joined the line from the right wing, looping around both Centres, who ran dummy lines; he beat the first defender and slipped it out of the ‘back-door’ to Full Back Tom Jennings arriving at pace. There was little space on the left wing, but Jenno backed himself, scorching down the wing to finish between the posts, it was a very well executed move and a 29 – 5 lead.

The Captain is too quick of the base of the scrum for Leek to prevent his hat-trick

The next ten minutes can be best described as ‘agricultural’ the playing surface had become a muddy-slurry, with players almost indistinguishable by their appropriate colours. Leek had the Lion’s-Share of possession, but still couldn’t break Macclesfield’s defence down. Tom Morton put in a monster clearance from 60 metres, finding touch 5 metres out, but as the ball had been passed back into the half, there was no 50 – 22 awarded – but no matter, Macc would attack with a scrum on 20 metres. The set-piece was solid, and James Oliver raced around the blind-side of the scrum to complete his hat-trick of tries, 34 – 5.

Elliot Alston smashes through the tackles, to finish what Phil Laing started and the final score

Macclesfield were patient in their build from the restart, until Phil Laing, broke a tackle racing 30 metres clear; the ball was quickly recycled out to the left wing, where some inter-passing between Jennings and Moule looked like a try was on, but stopped just short. Macclesfield opted for a scrum from the resulting penalty, and when the ball was whipped out to the right wing Harrison was strong on the ball, with a quick recycle finding Elliot Alston on the charge, who crashed through several players to score the 7th try for a final score of 41 – 5.

As the players left the field, there was a final cheer as the score at Headlands was announced: “Stockport 34 – Rossendale 33!” Macclesfield’s destiny is now in their own hands, with a massive game at Blackburn to come in two weeks time.

Centre partners and brothers in arms

The Coaches were pleased with how it had gone, these were some of Tommy Taylor’s thoughts, talking to Analyst Matt Coleridge after the game: “From a progress point of view, it was probably one of the best (games) of the season; we were low on energy last week, and we said during the week that we needed to be aware of that, and they (Leek) got stuck into us, they had a few purple patches, but then the way we managed the game, worked for us – getting the scores again in the second half, that was very impressive – they tried to get under our skin a bit, but the lads rose above that, we stuck to our systems, and the quality showed – the scrum and the maul were massive all day, and they laid the foundations for the quick lads to do their stuff”. Head Coach, Darren Lamond, now has his sights set firmly on the contest in two weeks time at Blackburn: “While we had fallen victim to the Rossendale game, the previous week against Kendal, we were determined to try and get the points as quickly as possible on Saturday, and the boys were really up for it getting a 22 point lead so quickly. The boys have a week’s rest now, and then we’ll be straight back at it on the Tuesday to prepare for Blackburn. We have a good game plan to cope with any situation, and a defensive structure to see off any threat; the lads’ game is in a good place, and they have every right to feel confident going into the game”.

A muddy handshake from MOTM Tom Jennings with match-day sponsors Everybody Leisure

Darren was particularly pleased with how well the lads coming into the game against Leek had played, which will only make selection even more difficult next week.

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