By Patrick Moore
Huddersfield RU fell to a 22-10 defeat against league leaders Macclesfield in National II North – but coach Gareth Lewis was proud of the team effort.
Two good second-half tries from winger Elliott Fletcher weren’t enough in a spirited comeback from Field, as they were denied a losing bonus point with the last play of the game.
Lewis’s side were without Joel Hinchliffe, Elliott Hodgson and Lewis Bradley to name a few, but still showed just why Macclesfield’s head coach Giles Heagerty reckoned Huddersfield were “one of the best sides in the league” before the match, despite being rooted at the bottom of the table.
Macclesfield exposed Field twice down the left in the second half, but could only convert one of their tries.
Huddersfield defended strongly, though, and held out very well to keep the score respectable.
It took until the 50th minute for Macclesfield to cross over again to open up a 17-0 lead, but from then on Huddersfield dominated.
An interception from Tom Kanauros when Macclesfield looked certain to score opened up an opportunity, one they should perhaps have scored from.
It didn’t take long before Fletcher scored a try and, although Chris Bell couldn’t convert, the Field were on the front foot again soon after.
Bell broke through the middle with men either side, but his pass was frustratingly cut out by the home side.
After a sin bin for a deliberate knock on in a try-scoring opportunity by Macclesfield, Fletcher again went down brilliantly in the corner. Tom Hodson this time missed the conversion from a tight angle with Bell substituted.
Huddersfield looked good money for a draw in the latter stages, but Macclesfield scored with 20 seconds left to snatch a bonus point for themselves.
“I’m incredibly proud again,” said Lewis. “We were streets ahead in our second half performance against the best team in the league.
“They were under a lot of pressure and, again, the scoreline doesn’t reflect the game. They did butcher a number of chances in the first half, but we hung in there until half time and we responded brilliantly,
“They had to work for every single try. We spoke at half time about slowing their play down because they were getting a lot of quick ball at the ruck, and we managed to do that by chucking an extra man in to the contact.
“Defensively, under our posts, we dealt with them really well.”
Fletcher, celebrating his first tries for the club, said: “It was a good game which became nice and open in the second half. The boys didn’t half put in a shift.
“We’re playing with nothing to lose now which is a good thing, so we’ve got a bit of freedom to play from the coaching staff.
“We have plenty more in our locker and we’ve done ourselves proud, despite the loss.”
Lewis added: “Fletch is deadly. One on one he can finish because he’s got great footwork and speed. He took his tries very well.
“Lewis Workman has really grown into the inside centre role and him and Tom Owen have made a really good partnership. Tom played his best game and I thought he was immense. He made some good line breaks and some good offloads and that’s what he needs to do every week.
“He’ll be the first to admit he hasn’t done it all season, but he’s an exceptional player.”
The Lockwood Park side aren’t mathematically relegated just yet as they prepare to host Caldy on Saturday.
Lewis added: “The lads who stepped up did brilliantly, and I’ve got to praise Ed Birkhead, Declan Thompson on his debut, Joah Bradley and Danny Grainger. We had about six lads missing but we have a great depth in our squad and they have to fight for their places next week.”
Man of the match: Tom Owen.
Huddersfield: Hodson, Kanauros, Owen, Workman, Fletcher, Bell, Jeffrey, Battye, Thornton, Sanderson, Thompson, Rhodes, Parfitt, Hoyle, Malthouse.
Replacements: 37 Declan Thompson for Adam Malthouse, 40 Tom Baxter for Laurence Sanderson, 49 Joah Bradley for Dan Jeffrey, 66 Edward Birkhead for Austen Thompson, 66 Dan Jeffrey for Chris Bell, 66 Danny Grainger for Tom Kanauros.