Hoppers 2nd XV 29 Macclesfield 2nd XV 20
Hoppers enjoyed an extremely satisfying and thoroughly deserved victory over the Conference A leaders on Saturday afternoon. After weeks of inconsistency and ill fortune, Young’s men put in a performance reminiscent of their early season form which saw them win fourteen straight games.
Whilst a title challenge might be out of reach Hoppers proved that they’re still a force to be reckoned with whilst they still boast the best record over the course of the season. The foundations were laid by a dominant and attritional pack who put the visitors under constant pressure at the breakdown whilst the backs showed admirable ambition in testing conditions. Hoppers also dealt with pressure well and their game management was vastly improved on some of their recent showings. Admittedly there is still a lot to work to be done but the victory gives the squad immense confidence for their trip down the M60 next weekend to new title favourites Sedgley Tigers.
It was Macclesfield who opened the scoring as a hopeful kick caused panic in the Hoppers cover defence. The winger pounced on the loose ball for an unconverted try but in reality Preston would have been disappointed with nature of the score.
Hoppers responded well with some good pressure and Farley pushed a penalty wide. However the home side were soon ahead as some sustained pressure on the right led to a score for the powerful Luke Proctor who was acquitting himself well in an unfamiliar lock forward role. Farley added the extras and Hoppers led 7-5.
There then followed a lengthy stoppage as the Macclesfield centre suffered a serious looking leg injury which required urgent attention. Everybody at Lightfoot Green wishes him a speedy recovery. Shortly after the restart some excellent play by Hoppers led to a turnover on the halfway line. The pack recycled and Hurst’s cut out pass found Gargett who skinned his man before kicking ahead. The winger recovered his kick and touched down for an excellent score. Farley added the conversion and Hoppers had a well deserved 12-5 lead.
The Macclesfield errors were mounting but they managed to engineer some pressure of their own. It was 12 apiece when Yates spilled an up and under which allowed the visitors to recycle quickly and score. This seemed to rattle Hoppers and things were compounded when the Macclesfield number 8 picked from the base to score a converted try.
Macclesfield stretched their lead just before the break when another Hoppers error led to a penalty for the visitors. The defending champions were capitalising on Hoppers mistakes but Young’s men regrouped at the break and came out strongly in the second half.
Rather than panic Hoppers managed possession and field position which saw them assert their authority over their opponents. Peterson, Holmes, Wilkinson and Proctor were having an increasing influence in the tight exchanges whilst Farley was putting in a Stirling shift at the breakdown.
Hoppers were right back in it after some typically robust work by Russ Flynn, playing at number 8, caused panic in the Macclesfield defence. Holmes, who’d put some teasing kicks in was also prominent and Proctor scored his second try. Farley’s conversion meant Hoppers trailed by just one point.
Young’s men were dominating possession and a crucial score looked increasingly likely. Macclesfield were restricted to occasional sorties into Hoppers territory and the home side deserved more for their efforts. However they took the lead following a fantastic kick from Farley who boomed over a penalty from the best part of forty metres. The score was now 22-19 and Hoppers were on the verge of a morale boosting victory.
The result was secured when the home side set a line out drive on the Macclesfield twenty two. The visitors tried in vain to stem the Hoppers tide but that man Farley barged over. He then converted his own score and Hoppers had a match winning 29-20 lead. Macclesfield tried in vain to reduce the arrears but their comeback was thwarted as the Hoppers defence was too strong. A great result for Young’s men in what has been a difficult period, all those involved deserve credit for their efforts.
One sideline from Saturday was the news that regular second team player Terry McGuire is off to pastures new in the coming weeks. The popular back-rower and occasional philosopher is off to South Korea to teach English. All those at Lightfoot Green wish him well and look forward to seeing him again when he returns.