Macclesfield 57 – Penrith 15

Macclesfield 57 – Penrith 15

By David Wilkinson


Most has already been said, but for want of repeating myself; this was it, 5 years in the waiting/making, with Penrith standing in our way of a return back to National Two rugby, where we all want the Club to be. The stats were stacked in our favour, Penrith will admit that they had had a poor start to the season, but more recently have played well at home; they do however have a cup fixture next week against Cleckheaton, and some may have had an eye on that. For the Macclesfield players, make no-doubt it, this was their cup final, a result at all costs was imperative. Several players would be disappointed that they did not make the team on the day, but it was good to see them taking part as water-boys.

The President’s lunch preceded the game, with guest speaker Dylan Hartley entertaining a full-house.

A massive day at Priory Park for all concerned

Penrith kicked-off, with the strong diagonal wind on their backs, finding touch on the 22; although Macclesfield cleared after a penalty at the scrum, Penrith won the ball back and piled on the pressure. From a Macclesfield goal-line drop-out, they attacked to the right, and when play came back to the left, 10 Issac Murray spotted two forwards in front of him, running against the grain he was between them with his angled run taking him to the line. It was game-on, Macc were 5 points down without firing a shot.

Tom Morton’s break sets up the first score for Macclesfield

Macclesfield looked keen to keep hold of the ball and run with it at every opportunity; Penrith stopped one attack with a deliberate knock-on, but a messed up lineout gave the ball back to the visitors. When Macc regained possession in their own half Harry Blackwell beat his man and started the attack, passing to Tom Morton running from deep, he beat his defender making 30 metres before returning it to Blackwell; a rapid ruck got the ball quickly to left wing where Jamie Harrison who had too much pace for the last defender. Harry Oliver’s tricky conversion got the boys going in the right direction, 7 – 5 after 16 minutes.

Ollie Longmore uses his strength to barge over for the second score

The boys in blue were now in relentless mood with two breath-taking attacks that needed last-gasp interventions by the Cumbrians. Penrith were pinned on their goal-line until a hoof into the air was carried 70 metres in the wind; Terence Babarinsa ran it back into the visitor’s half, putting Macc back on the attack. Four consecutive offloads got Macc close, and when Danny Martin set off like a rat-up-a-drainpipe it looked like the second, but another last-gasp tackle stopped him short. Penrith were not off the hook, as two quick phases gave Ollie Longmore the chance to show his strength at short range, 12 – 5 after 22 minutes.

Penrith then had a protracted period of possession, but Macclesfield’s defence pushed them back, until, under pressure, they managed to get the ball to Left Wing Rob Coward, he made good ground before an excellent grubber kick took the visitor’s to within 10 metres. They out-jumped Macc at the lineout and three good phases got them to within a metre where Loose-head prop Adam Howe powered over, 12 – 10.

Clever inter-passing leads to Harry Oliver’s flying finish

The wind was making the lineout very difficult, with Penrith out jumping Macc on the short ball, as a consequence it made Macclesfield more determined to keep hold of the ball, which they were doing very well. Phase after phase they moved up the field with the play shifting direction, when it came back to the right, fast-hands from Harry Harding found Harry Oliver, who equally found Dan Percival on the wing, Percy continued what had been started passing back inside to Oliver who finished in style, and grabbing the extras, 19 – 10.

James Oliver in complete control for Macclesfield’s push-over try.

After a massive 50/22 by Morton, Macc were back in the red-zone, but the lineout wasn’t straight, which gave Penrith the opportunity to escape, which they took with spades; a penalty at the scrum enabled Macclesfield to close-out the half. James Cross came on for the second half, with his first charge getting a good cheer from the packed stand; there was more to come, Penrith were already under extreme pressure at the scrum, and this was sure to get worse with Crossy at Tight-head. A Penrith scrum in their 22 would go backwards at a rate-of-knots, but they somehow managed to get the ball away, but within a minute Macclesfield had their own 5-metre scrum. It was academic; a controlled shove got them over the line, with Captain James Oliver in full control, and brother Harry getting the extras, 26 – 10.

Macclesfield were quickly back on the attack again, but were penalised in the Penrith 22 for crossing. The visitors cleared to their 40-metre line, and with the Macc players sauntering back, with their backs to the ball Penrith took a quick throw-in to number 7 Scott Lancaster, who was round the cover before they knew it, racing 60 metres for an excellent opportunistic try, 26 – 15.

Tom Morton dives over for his well taken try.

After the restart Penrith tried to run the ball out, but Macclesfield’s blitz-defence pushed them back again, until they spilled the ball. Macclesfield wasted no time, one phase of play and the ball was shipped to the left, where Morton danced around two players to score from 20 metres, 33 – 15.

Danny Martin is too quick, as he darts up the-blind-side for his opportunistic try.

Macclesfield withstood considerable pressure defending their line, until winning a penalty for holding on, Morton cleared to halfway. With the lineout secured, Macc went through two forward charges before releasing the backs; the move was stopped on the right wing, but at the ruck Danny Martin spotted that the covering defence were engaged in the ruck, he darted around the narrow blind-side, with his pace taking him to the try-line from 40 metres, 38 – 15.

Jamie Harrison bags his brace after O’Donnell’s footballing finesse

Penrith kicked deep with Macclesfield going through just two phases before releasing the backs just outside the 22; Morton to Babarinsa to Blackwell to O’Donnell, who joined the line at pace. Weaving between would-be tacklers he ran the ball into the visitor’s half, where he grubber-kicked the ball ahead. Surrounded by three defenders, he got his foot to the ball first, angling it away from the cover before a side-footed pass, like an Inside Right to his Centre Forward found Jamie Harrison to finish it off – it was a footballing thing of beauty, Tom Morton got the extras, 45 – 15.

Penrith would have 10 minutes of possession, playing some good attacking rugby, but they could not breakdown Macclesfield’s structured defence. When Macclesfield did get their hands on the ball they did look like scoring, and on their second foray they broke down the left wing, with Terence Babarinsa flipping the ball over the top, back inside to Samir Tahraoui, in support, who wasn’t going to be stopped, 50 – 15.

Penrith were determined to keep possession and try to score from deep from their half, but again they were going backwards. A half-break got them a few metres, but they dawdled at the ruck, and Tahraoui cleared-out the whole ruck giving Macc possession. The attack went out to the left with Sam Adu supporting on the opposite wing, and finishing it off; up stepped Tom Burden, winning his 100th cap and playing possibly his last game for Macclesfield to convert from the touchline, not bad for a burly back row forward, to make it 57 – 15 at the final whistle.

Ex England Captain Dylan Hartley, MP David Rutley and Chairman Bob Cooke, congratulate the team for winning the league championship.

Penrith had had a good part of the game but Macclesfield’s organised defence and rapier-like attack was too much for the young Cumbrian side. There was much celebrate at the final whistle, with handshakes from Chairman Bob Cooke and Macclesfield MP David Rutley, and ex England Captain, Dylan Hartley, presenting a trophy to Captain James Oliver and the team, to mark the their success in winning the league.

Macclesfield celebrate their well-earned promotion into the National Leagues

Macclesfield’s success has come from a brand of rugby that has been employed by the total squad of the 1st and 2nd team players; coached together throughout the season. Like every team, the set-piece has to be solid, and with Macclesfield, defence has always been the top priority, they have been the mean-machine, twice combating Blackburn’s relentless possession pressure. And with the ball in hand, it’s all about pace, fast phases, forwards weakening the underbelly before unleashing rapier-like attacks. It’s been a joy to watch for the Macclesfield Faithful, as it will be in National Two. We don’t know yet which division we will be allocated, but either way, it will be a massive away travelling budget. Plans are afoot to create sponsorship opportunities for the Club per se, players and home and away matches; if you know of a company that would wish to align itself with a successful community sporting brand, please ask them to get in touch.

A fitting end to the season as all senior teams celebrate with wins


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