Macclesfield 2nd XV 19 Hoppers 2nd XV 28
The second team maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a gritty and determined victory over Macclesfield. Hoppers were deserved winners as they dominated possession and territory whilst they created the better and more frequent chances. However Macclesfield led for long periods and were always a threat on the counter attack thanks largely to their lightning quick full-back who was threat throughout. On reflection Hoppers were a little wasteful, butchering four clear cut scoring opportunities but as the game wore on their forwards took control and had the better of the breakdown.
Hoppers got off to the worst possible start as they made a mess of the kick off allowing their hosts to retain possession before spinning the ball wide for a well taken, yet un-converted try in the right hand corner. Young’s men woke from their slumber and a strong surge from Berry saw Hoppers camped in the Macclesfield half. The home side transgressed at the breakdown and Lewis Allen slotted a penalty over to make the score 5-3 to Macclesfield. Shortly after some more Preston pressure resulted in Allen kicking another three pointer and Hoppers had a slender lead.
Hoppers were well on top and a couple of huge carries by Russ Flynn saw the Macclesfield inside centre taken from the field, not just for the injuries he was now carrying but as much for his own well being. Unfortunately Hoppers blew a golden chance to increase their lead but credit to the home side as they countered well The result being a brilliantly taken try by the Macclesfield full-back who scorched in a set move from a scrum on half way. Hoppers defence was caught napping but it served as notice that Macclesfield were capable of causing problems if they were given the time and space to do so.
Hoppers trailed 12-6 but good work from Elliott and Gargett saw Reddick create a chance for the dangerous Flynn. Unfortunately the centre’s pass fell short and “Big Russ” was unable to finish. The men from Lightfoot Lane were soon back in the game as the forwards started to assert control. A tremendous drive from a line-out on half way saw Young’s men breach the Macclesfield defence and a cute angle from Berry led to Flynn scoring on the left. Allen couldn’t convert but Hoppers turned round just a point behind at 12-11.
Hoppers had the first chance of the second period but Allen’s penalty grazed an upright. Shortly after Macclesfield made one of their few forays into the Hoppers twenty-two. Preston cleared their lines but it played into the hands of the Macclesfield back three who countered at pace, some disappointing defence allowed the full-back to score under the posts for a converted score. Hoppers now trailed 19-11 and their unbeaten start to the season looked in some danger.
However the second team aren’t champions for nothing and took control, ably led by Berry and Keenan who started to make big holes in a tiring Macclesfield defence. Sustained pressure from Hoppers followed and an improbable turnover on the Macclesfield twenty two saw Flynn score in the left corner. Allen added a vital conversion and Young’s men again trailed by just a point at 19-18. The young play-maker then added a penalty to take Hoppers into the lead although he then missed an opportunity to extend Preston’s advantage.
However with under ten minutes remaining Berry, leading by example once more, carried three defenders over the line with him for what proved to be the match winning score. Allen added the extras and Hoppers had come back from 19-11 down to lead 19-28. The home side tried in vain to battle back but aside from an unsuccessful penalty attempt Hoppers were able to see out the game in relative comfort. In addition to strong performances from Keenan, Martindale, Berry, Flynn and Gargett, debutant Josh Thundercliffe impressed with his work in the loose whilst his scrummaging caused the home side some real problems when he came on.
Despite their victory Hoppers actually dropped to second place in the Bateman Premier League as the rejuvenated and re-named Fylde Hawks enjoyed a convincing victory over the weekend. However the men from the Woodlands face a daunting trip to Sedgley Park next Saturday in what should be a genuine gauge as to the progress they’ve made. Hoppers meanwhile host Vale of Lune as they look to build on their fine start to the campaign. Games between the two are always fiercely contested so the lads would appreciate your support this Saturday.