Hoppers 2nd XV 12-13 Macclesfield 2nd XV
The second team slipped up on a sunny but bitterly cold afternoon at Lightfoot Green. Young’s tyros were full of frustration on Saturday evening and will reflect upon the result as one that got away. In hindsight they will regret passing over some kickable penalties whilst ruing a late conversion that pinged back off the upright. They had the better of the possession and territory whilst they dominated the scrum for the first fifty or so minutes.
However credit should go to Macclesfield for the way they took control of the scrum and made the most of their chances. The men from Priory Lane used all their experience and were well served by the snowy conditions back in Cheshire. The adverse weather put paid to the Macclesfield first team fixture and Fred Taylor (who enjoyed a typically influential cameo) was able to call upon help from above.
Hoppers started slowly and the visitors enjoyed some early pressure. However the home side began to dominate the possession without spending too much time in the red zone. Some fine work by Bevan and Robinson created their first opportunity but Marshall’s opportunism was not rewarded and the New Zealander was held up.
Some five minutes later Hoppers were rewarded as Clitheroe (who enjoyed a fine game) burrowed over. There was a hint that he lost control on grounding but without the benefit of an instant replay the referee gave the score. The conversion was good and Hoppers were 7-0 ahead, a good return given the strong wind they had to combat. The visitors were on the board shortly after with a well taken penalty but this sparked Hoppers into life. There was some excellent attacking by Rhodes-Powers whilst Dominic Moon was becoming increasingly influential. Hoppers had two penalties just before half time which fell short, thus preventing Young’s men turning round with a ten point lead.
The visitors started the second half well and Hoppers hadn’t really adjusted to having the wind at their backs. Macclesfield managed to put some phases together and for the first time they got in behind their opponents. The men from Cheshire scored on the left to lead 8-7. Just four minutes later they scored again, the catalyst being some powerful work at the scrum. Despite the conditions they offloaded well with the evergreen Taylor provided the try-scoring offload. They couldn’t add the conversion and had a handy six point lead.
Young’s men had plenty of time to take something from the game, but for the second week running the injuries were racking up. However they managed to sustain some pressure and possession leaving Macclesfield no alternative but to defend illegally. Hoppers were therefore awarded two penalties in quick succession. The first seemed kickable but they went on the attack, trusting the driving maul that had served them so well in recent weeks. Macclesfield defended well though and Hoppers were turned over. Unfortunately for the home side they couldn’t capitalise on the second penalty as Ward’s attempt was off target.
Hoppers didn’t throw in the towel and piled on the pressure. This time their maul served them well and prop Tom McGuiness rumbled over for what might have been the crucial score. Ward’s conversion looked good but the post intervened and Macclesfield retained the lead, all be it by the slimmest of margins. Unfortunately for Hoppers the away side managed to close the game out and Young’s men had suffered their first defeat in Conference A.
All is not lost though for Hoppers as they are still in a strong position at the top of the table. They would have been buoyed by Sedgley Tigers’ failure to beat Fylde and Young knows that if his side win their game in hand next week then they will leapfrog the men from Whitefield. That game is another home fixture against a strong Chester side who are well and truly in the championship shake up.
The photos below are provided with the kind permission of Mike Craig.