2nd XV edged by Macc

Date: 14 January 2013

Hoppers 2nd XV 21 Macclesfield 2nd XV 25

The second team lost a gripping encounter to perennial title challengers Macclesfield at a frosty Lightfoot Lane on Saturday afternoon. In what was always going to be a tight affair Young’s men were vanquished as their visitors scored a try with the very last play of the game. As they reflect on proceedings Hoppers will feel that it was a game they lost rather than one that Macclesfield won. However the result can be viewed as a blip rather than a major setback and they know that if they win their remaining ten games then they will be in a good position to retain their championship.

Preston started like the proverbial steam train and it was a full five minutes until their visitors secured any possession. Their early pressure was rewarded as Macclesfield were penalised in their twenty-two, the result being a straightforward three points from the boot of Farley. The men from Priory Park came right back into things but their stand off shanked a relatively simple penalty that would have tied the scores. However, with Fletcher forced off with a badly cut eye, the Macclesfield play maker made no mistake and levelled the match at three apiece.

The next ten minutes or so were dominated by Macclesfield’s excellent scrum half who began to probe dangerously from the base of the scrum and at the fringe of the breakdown. Somewhat unusually the Hoppers set piece was creaking a little bit and it was little surprise when some driving play and a smart offload led to a try for Macclesfield in the left corner.

Preston came flooding back and pinned Macclesfield deep inside their half but they were unable to make their possession or territory count as Farley just missed with two penalties in quick succession. However Young’s men knuckled down and and a darting break by Mark Murray put Pollock in for a score just near the posts. The young Irishman finished well from twenty metres out whilst his pace and footwork caused his opposite number problems all afternoon.

Hoppers kept knocking on the door but were unable to capitalise on their 10-8 lead. Macclesfield were able to clear their lines and a cross field kick was picked up smartly by their full back who exploited a favourable bounce to score under the posts. The visitors led 15-10 at half time in what had become an absorbing match and testament to the quality of the Bateman Premier League Conference A.

The home side started the stronger and the visitors were again defending their lines, but did so illegally, the result being another penalty for Farley. The match ebbed and flowed with Macclesfield trying to build on their slender advantage but a dogged turnover from Conway and an elusive break from Wallace saw Hoppers return to where they needed to be. Mabaya was now on and Hoppers began to cause the visiting scrummage some headaches. The pressure paid dividends as they disrupted a Macclesfield restart and Wallace burrowed over to put the champions 18-15 ahead.

Just when Young’s men thought they had done enough Macclesfield showed the grit and determination which illustrates why they’ll be heavily involved once again when the prizes are given out in April. Disappointingly from Hoppers perspective the visitors managed to drive a line out over from ten metres out, a score which gave them a 20-18 lead with seven minutes left.

Hoppers have fortitude of their own in abundance and a barnstorming run from Webster put the blue and whites deep into enemy territory. The visitors were penalised at a subsequent breakdown and with barely three minutes remaining Farley’s penalty put Young’s men 21-20 ahead.

The hosts fielded the resultant kick off successfully and all that was seemingly required was a succession of phases and a straightforward clearance to touch. It looked as though Preston would manage both and secure the points but Macclesfield managed to turn them over on the ten metre line. The visitors attacked quickly to the right before switching back to the left and putting the ball through the hands. Crucially, Hoppers had come up in the defensive line and agonisingly for Young and his men the Macclesfield outside centre was able to score a relatively easy try in the left corner.

The score came from the last play of a pulsating game. Credit should go to Macclesfield as they kept playing, showing an admirable sense of determination and ambition. Preston though can be proud of their efforts as they matched their opponents blow for blow and in all honesty a draw may have represented the fairest result. They were beaten but unbowed and remain focused on retaining their title come the end of the season. Young’s men have a tough trip to Chester next weekend but they will travel to their hosts full of confidence having beaten them twice already this season.


Thanks to Mike Craig for giving us permission to use his excellent photos of the game.


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