National II North
NO-ONE could complain about Huddersfield’s commitment against Macclesfield – but sadly they still came away without a point from their clash with the League-leaders at Lockwood Park.
The performance was certainly a big improvement on last week’s poor showing at Hull Ionians, particularly from the forwards, but they still struggled to find a way through the visitors’ cast-iron defence, until late in the game when substitute hooker Francis Entressengle was on the end of a driving maul and got the touchdown near the posts.
There was little to choose between the two sides in the first half with Chris Johnson ruling out Ross Winney’s 14th minute short-range penalty with one of his own two minutes later from a good 38 yards out.
With the pack holding their own against Macclesfield, the backs found more opportunities, and regular full-back Donovan van Vuuren, playing at centre in place of the injured Ben Paxman, was twice involved in good runs down the flanks, first with Lee Paxman and then with winger Adam Ryder, while at the other end the visitors went close before being held up on the line and were then penalised for holding on which gave Johnson the chance to relieve the pressure.
But having defended really well and looking set to go in at the break all square, a momentary lapse in concentration allowed Macclesfield to swiftly move the ball through several pairs of hands out to their left-winger Josh Fowles, who stretched his legs out in a 20-yard race to the line to cross in the corner.
Winney landed a great conversion for a 10-3 lead, which, but for a tremendous last ditch tackle from young full-back Tom Owen who bundled the opposite winger Matt Simpson into touch a yard short, would have been even greater.
Despite having conceded a score just before the break, Huddersfield came out with renewed enthusiasm to start the second half, and within two minutes had forced a penalty, but unfortunately Johnson pushed it wide from some 40 yards out.
Gradually as the half progressed Macclesfield began to gain the upperhand, and crucially No8 Dan Hyde was sin-binned for holding on which signalled a spell of concerted pressure by the visitors, and finally it told when from a scrum five yards out, flanker Dan Baines found a gap in the home defence and dived over for a try near the posts which Winney converted.
Damian Clayton replaced Joel Hinchliffe at scrum half on 50 minutes and 10 minutes later on came skipper Mark Whitehead and Entressengle in place of Gareth Lewis and James Davies.
But then having regained Hyde from the sin-bin, Huddersfield were immediately back down to 14 when the referee yellow-carded Johnson for interference.
From that offence Winney kicked his second penalty to extend Macclesfield’s lead to 20-3 and that was the way it looked like staying.
Whitehead showed glimpses of what Huddersfield had been missing in attack with two jinking runs, the second of which so nearly brought a try for winger Adam Sutcliffe, only for him to be tackled into touch close to the line.
In the last few of minutes the visitors began to look a little ragged as they also lost two players to the sin-bin, Neil Keane followed a minute later by Richard Hughes, and Huddersfield took advantage with the forwards driving on strongly which led to Entressengle notching his debut first-team try.
Johnson converted and the home side finished the stronger of the two and they desperately chased another late score which would have at least brought them a bonus point, but it was not to be.
Overall it was a much-improved effort, but on Saturday they were up against a very well-drilled and organised team who could well turn out to be the team to beat this year.
Huddersfield: Owen’ Ryder, Van Vuuren, Paxman (L), Sutcliffe; Johnson, Hinchliffe (Clayton 50); Slater, Davies (Entressengle 60), Stringwell, Rhodes, Harris, Sharpe (Hinchliffe 75), Lewis (Whitehead 60), Hyde.
Macclesfield: Eaton, Simpson, Hughes, Howcroft, Fowles, Winney, Townsend, Mantell, Allen, Kent, Jones, Lear, Baines, Stewart, Keep. Subs: Devin, Moss, Kean.
Referee: Steve Lee.
YMCA scored a narrow 30-25 win in an entertaining home encounter with Ripon in Yorkshire Division II.
Full report and pictures in tomorrow’s Examiner Sport.