Macclesfield 13-26 Preston Grasshoppers
With six wins from the last seven games, Hoppers looked to continue their successful run with a visit to Macclesfield, a side that, since losing heavily at Lightfoot green in September, had also put together a string of very strong performances and Arnie was well aware of what faced his team,
‘In their own words, we humiliated them and since that result they have been on fire so we know that this week is going to be tough’
Conditions were good, the sky was bright and clear with no wind at all and whilst the pitch looked greasy, the surface was good.
Hoppers started well and within four minutes a fast passing move involving Jacob Browne, Sam Stott and Jordan Dorrington took them inside the Macclesfield 5m line where the ball was passed to Toby Harrison who scored the first points, Alex Ward’s conversion attempt sliding past the upright. 0 -5.
Macclesfield responded well and a series of pays which saw the game move back and forth in the middle third of the pitch gained them a penalty on the Hoppers’ 10m line. The kick looked good until it caught the top of the upright and rebounded away.
Undaunted, they continued the pressure and only five minutes later they had another penalty, this time inside the Hoppers’ 22 and from directly in front of the posts the kick posed no problems and the score moved on to 3 – 5.
The teams were evenly matched and with the fast pace of the game, play moved up and down the field as attacks and clearances gave line outs to both sides at opposite ends of the pitch.
It was from one of these clearances that Tyler Spence got his first break, taking the ball from his own 22 to beyond the Macclesfield 10m line. From there the visitor’s mounted a solid attack and gained a lineout on their hosts’ 5m line which resulted in some desperate defending culminating with a Yellow Card for Macclesfield prop Burden. With their other prop having already gone off injured, the game moved to uncontested scrums which denied Hoppers one of their great strengths, their ability to drive the opposition.
However, they were soon able to capitalize on their superior numbers and, maintaining the pressure inside the Macclesfield 5m line, Matt Lamprey broke through to score his first of two tries and Ward duly converted.
With half time approaching the home side gained their second penalty score and could have made another when the last kick of the half again bounced off the upright. As the teams went to the break it was 6 – 12.
For the spectators it had been a very entertaining half. Fast, open play had made for exciting breaks by both sides and the battle for territory had had the Hoppers forwards demonstrating their power, repulsing the Macclesfield attacks as their backs tore into the opposition ranks.
The home side had fought well in the middle third but had been unable to convert their penalty kicks into points as the posts denied them the scores.
It had been a good contest and the crowd was looking forward to more of the same. They were not to be disappointed.
The second half saw the return of contested scrums and Grasshoppers began to dominate. A break from Lamprey took them to the Red Zone where he was bundled into touch. Macclesfield lost their lineout and when the ball had been secured by Hoppers, Aly Murray crossed the whitewash for try number three, again converted by Ward.
Macclesfield then had their ‘purple patch’ and, with the game having reverted to uncontested scrums a second time due to yet another injured Macclesfield prop, they scored their only try of the afternoon to narrow the deficit to 13 – 19 with a quarter of the match to play.
This obviously boosted the home side and for the next ten minutes they mounted one attack after another. Whilst Hoppers’ defence was solid the play descended into chaos at times as the referee tried to keep track of the play.
Things were resolved with another yellow card for Macclesfield which then made the last ten minutes very difficult for them and the game was sealed with a second try for Lamprey which gave Preston the win and the Bonus Point. At full time the score stood at 13 – 26.
After the match Arnie was very pleased once again,
‘I’d have definitely taken the bonus point at the start. I said last week how good they’ve been and I had a good chat with their coach before the game and he said that since we gave them a bit of a humiliating at our place they had been on a good run and felt a bit unlucky not to beat Otley last week.
I said to the boys that it was going to be tough and that I wanted four ‘D’s’ from them – Desire, Discipline and Defence and with the DNA we have within the squad we knew we could match them.
Although the discipline in the first half let us down a bit but the desire and the defence was outstanding from minute one.
They had their little purple patch in the second half when it got a bit close but we weathered that and I’m really proud of the lads. I’ve just said to them, these next five games will determine the season for us so we just have to take it a week at a time and not get too carried away with ourselves.
Lamps played really well today with two tries along with Aly and Toby and with the all-round team performance, I am very pleased’.
The focus is back at Lightfoot Green next week as we take on Sandal who lost by just one point to Otley today and now sit eleventh in the table so let’s get a good crowd down to spur the lads on.
Report by John Le Page, picture by Rob Hockney