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Macclesfield 20 Wharfedale 17

November 22nd, 2013
This was the kind of match which referees must hate: a war of attrition between two tough packs of forwards, muddy underfoot and played in cold and ultimately torrential conditions, success measured in inches rather than yards, scrummages repeatedly collapsing – was it a slip or was it deliberate? Wharfedale clearly went there with a plan designed for such conditions, but they found themselves up against an equally determined pack which ultimately proved itself the worthy winner on points. For the first time this season the Wharfedale forwards found themselves, except for a purple patch in the second half, unable to convert close-quarter pressure into points, even against a side reduced on three occasions by yellow cards. Nor were they able to mount the ferocious defence of their own line which we have become accustomed to seeing, their retreating scrum conceding two penalty tries, one of them against fourteen men. On the other hand, whereas Wharfedale’s defensive misdemeanours were penalised by penalty tries, Macclesfield’s were penalised with yellow cards, which to their credit they were able to overcome – no matter how hard you work, you can’t nullify a penalty try. The Greens will complain with some justification that when their 30-yard driven maul was illegally stopped on the line, they were compensated with only yet another penalty, and will further have been surprised that only one of Macclesfield’s cards, all of them incurred in the red zone, was for a technical offence. Having conceded the first penalty try on the stroke of half-time for a 13-5 deficit, Wharfedale came out firing after the break for almost total domination of the second half, but so too came sheets of driving rain which made handling virtually impossible, Macclesfield’s well-executed rush defence only adding to the frustration of the Greens’ ambitions. The only passage of open attacking rugby came when, first, replacement Bell made a long break, only for the support to be stifled; then a Gray break set Hodgson free, only to see him slip in the treacherous conditions in the act of passing, the move eventually breaking down with a fumble with the line at Wharfedale’s mercy. After his team had weathered Macclesfield’s opening onslaught, Lloyd Davies, so consistent against Rosslyn Park, missed a simple penalty, but Wharfedale took a deserved lead when scrum-half Gough burrowed over the line. But by injury time, when the first of the penalty tries was conceded, the home fly-half Eaton had landed two penalties for soft infringements in mid-field. The second half was all Wharfedale’s, but their pressure yielded only two short-range tries, from Solomi and Tyson, one of which was converted by Davies, to give the Greens a 17-13 lead after 51 minutes. But by the end of the match Wharfedale, at least one forward now having to play on with an injury, had burned themselves out and there was an inevitability about the 78th-minute award of the second penalty try. Wharfedale: S Horsfall; N Taylor, L Davies, A Hodgson (c), J Druce (S Crabtree, 68); L Gray, J Gough (W Bell, 43); J Altham, S Graham (I Larkin, 17), M Tampin (A Mason, 40), R Brown, R Rhodes, J Tyson, D Solomi, A Allen. Tries: Gough, Solomi, Tyson Conversion: Davies      
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