Macclesfield Women finish undefeated

By Annie James

Last Friday Macclesfield Women’s team took on Stockport Scarlets – their toughest opponents yet! Macclesfield had remained unbeaten all season in both the Inner Warrior League and unbeaten at home, they only conceded one game in round three of the Papa John’s Cup where they remained the only development team in the competition losing to Leigh who currently play two leagues above  Macclesfield.

The squad had been preparing for a few weeks running up to this game, they have focused on applying pressure in defence and holding their shape in attack. Your Macclesfield side prepared for a forward heavy game, with lots of pick and go play from the Stockport side, it was important that the defensive line held forwards tight to the ruck, while spreading to cover the backline so not to let anyone break down the wing.

Vice-Captain Mary Thorp who played her last game for your Macclesfield Side for a while (as she and her fiancé Tom Burden fly off to Kuala Lumpur this summer), lead out the team for the final match of the season. With a strong starting line-up, including Captain Mel Bramley returning to the pack this week, Macclesfield were ready to set to receive a starting kick from Stockport. Number 8, Sarah Naden gathering from the floor took the first run of the match with a pod ready to ruck over securing possession allowing another forward pod to set off scrum-half Mel Bramley to take in again giving the backs time to set in position. Stockport managed to hold your Macclesfield side at the half way line for the first few minutes of the match until a quick pass out down the back line from Vice-Captain Mary Thorp found Pippa Wyer on the wing handing off two of the opposition as she sprinted from half way through to the try line leaving Stockport in her stride.

This was followed not long after by another quick start off the reset with the forwards securing the ball for the Macclesfield side and with two quick passes through the hands of Mary Thorp and Tiegan Shaw from the ruck to outside centre Chloe Newbigging straight through the middle of the Stockport defensive line and over the try line putting herself on the scoresheet. Stockport ran up for the restart, and with a big tackle and some strong rucking were able to regain possession putting your Macclesfield side under pressure to defend. Wanting to make a break down the wing Stockport’s stand-off chipped the ball over the top forcing wing Sophie Barnett-Hubbard to track back to gather the ball quickly offloading to fullback Annie James just before being tackled, the Stockport line came up strong forcing some quick passes to gain back some meters. After some strong lines from Julia Ashford and Mandy Rosser, the back line was once again set, with the ball moving nicely through the hands of the back line committing to players before popping the ball to the next, Sophie Barnett-Hubbard made a dash down the wing stepping around tackle to give Macclesfield their third try of the match putting them 15-0 ahead.

After a long 15 minutes of back and forth play between the two sides, Macclesfield’s number 7 Julia Ashford working hard pushing up in defence quickly lead to second row Louise Anderson turning over the ball allowing the Macclesfield back line to work their magic, putting Choe Newbigging back once again through and over the try line. Stockport came back from the restart strong, challenging the Macclesfield side pressuring them to secure the ball quickly, unfortunately with a knock-on Stockport regained possession and were ready then to attack again pushing closer and closer to Macclesfield’s try line. Just before half time in a final bid to secure a try the ball was sent out to the backs and crashed through the Macclesfield defensive line to secure them the try leaving the score at 20-5 at half time.

Back from half time Catherine Rigby and Tanisha Whalley took to the pitch to replace Chloe Newbigging and Tiegan Shaw, with Alex Wilson to replace Liz Jarratt. Macclesfield started with the ball and applying pressure quickly disrupting passes causing Stockport to run hard lines in to the defence. Stockport retained possession of the ball for the majority of the next 20 minutes, unfortunately making the Macclesfield side work hard to hold them out of their 22”. With the Macclesfield side putting their all into every tackle, Stockport continued to crash the ball until finally making it over once again and being converted successfully. This was quickly followed by another try from their forward pack.

With the score now 20-17 to the Macclesfield side, they were ready to work harder than they had before holding Stockport out for the final 5 minutes of the match. With the crowd behind them, Macclesfield left everything on the pitch not giving in to any tackle and not letting Stockport past. Finally after applying some pressure and a couple of errors from Stockport handling, Bex Ward cleared the Stockport defensive line with a kick putting Macclesfield back in possession, until finally a knock on from Stockport lead to the whistle being blown, giving Macclesfield their best win of the season!

Coach Paul Jakubowski said “In the first half we probably produced some of the best rugby that we have played all season on a very heavy pitch. The interplay between the backs and forwards was outstanding”.

“All credit to Stockport who played to their strengths and put us under pressure for long periods of the second half and deserved their scores. Our defence was immense in the second half, in particular the last five minutes, other teams would have cracked under that, but the defensive resolve and bravery of the team was enough to see the game out. You can’t coach heart and the team have spades of it!”

Over the season the Women’s team have gone from having 10 supporters to seeing the stands becoming fuller and fuller, they will be going into the next league up, NC3, next season and can’t wait to get back in front of a home crowd in the 2024-25 season!

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