Albion scrape past Macclesfield with 18-21 win (Sponsored By Albi Travel)

Try celebration by Matt Crosscombe of Plymouth Albion during the RFU National League One match between Macclesfield RUFC and Plymouth Albion on Saturday 1st April 2017 at Priory Park, Macclesfield - Photo: Paul Thompson/PPAUK

By Haden Tye

Albion made it ten wins out of ten with a nail-bitingly close 18-21 victory at Macclesfield.

Tries from Sam Daly, Harry Strong and Matt Crosscombe proved to be enough for Kieran Hallett’s men against a determined Macclesfield side that made Albion squirm right until the end to take the points.

You’d have thought that a trip to bottom-side Macclesfield would have been a routine win for second-placed Albion, but it was anything but that as Hallett’s men defended their try-line impeccably for the final ten minutes against a Macclesfield side that wouldn’t lie down.

Albion had started well and were rewarded within the first quarter of an hour as a maul down the right ended with Daly scrambling the ball over the try-line to open the scoring. Matt Shepherd converted to extend Albion’s early lead.

The lead crumbled just minutes later as Elliot Brierley flew past the Albion defence down the left and went over the try-line to put the hosts on the scoreboard. Lewis Barker levelled proceedings with the conversion.

It took Albion until the half-hour mark to retaliate to Macclesfield’s converted try. With each side going blow for blow, Albion left the biggest dent as Strong weaved his way inside and put the ball down to put Albion ahead again. Shepherd converted, too.

Macclesfield’s Lewis Barker scored a penalty just before half-time, to keep the scores tight going into the break. That penalty, would prove to have a big impact on the following half, as the hosts scored a try down the right to put themselves ahead.

Matt King, Macclesfield’s winger kicked down the right and raced after it, with Robin Wedlake chasing back too. As the ball went over the try-line, King dived in attempt to score the try and Wedlake did his best to clear. The ref gave the try, albeit there was an air of uncertainty around it.

The conversion was missed, but Macclesfield weren’t done there. The hosts pressed and pressed, whilst Albion had to get back behind the ball and defend. With just over ten minutes of the 80 to go, Will Norton saw yellow. The constant pressure from the Blues had run the clock down and Albion were in need of a way back into the game, which was looking more and more unlikely.

Then, with five minutes to play Matt Crosscombe picked up the ball on halfway and dodged past the Macclesfield back-line and raced towards their try-line. Crosscombe was getting caught. Step by step. Stride by stride. Then the big man came crashing down from a tackle, but just about did enough to get the ball over the try-line. Harvey Skinner converted with ease to give Albion a three-point advantage.

It was a lead that Hallett’s men had to fight to protect.

Wave after wave of Macclesfield attack crashed into the Albion back-line and time after time, Albion rejected Macclesfield’s advances. A constant and relentless pressure from the hosts was surely to much to resist.

The clock went past the 80 and into extra time. Albion searched for the extra energy to hold off the overwhelming pressure. Macclesfield weren’t lying down and went from right to left and back again. Every yard was fought for and each one gained for either side spurred on their team to push harder and fight for the win.

Matt Crosscombe was yellow-carded as each Albion player tried desperately to stop Macclesfield breaking past their wall of defence. There was nothing to separate the sides as the clock soared past the 90-minute mark with still no resolution to the on-going battle on the field.

And then, like a ray of sunshine in the dark, the ref blew his whistle for full-time.

Hallett’s men roared with relief, Albion’s travelling support bellowed in delight and Macclesfield’s players, who had committed bundles of energy to beat Albion all dropped to the floor in a heap of disappointment.

It was intense, hard-fought and a little bit ugly, but, nonetheless it was a tenth win for Hallett’s men who had more than earned it.

This side has a knack of winning.

Albion

First team: 15 Daniel Powell, 14 Matthew Crosscombe, 13 Dean Squire, 12 Harry Strong, 11 Robin Wedlake, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Matthew Shepherd, 1 William Norton, 2 Thomas Cowan-Dickie, 3 William Keast, 4 Daniel Collier, 5 Samuel Holmes, 6 Rupert Cooper, 7 Sam Daly, 8 Daniel Williams.

Replacements: 17 Samuel Nixon, 18 Rupert Freestone, 19 George Mills, 20 Kieran Hallett, 21 Cameron Setter.

T: Sam Daly 12, Harry Strong 30, Matt Crosscombe 75.

P:

C: Matt Shepherd 12, 30, Harvey Skinner 75.

Macclesfield

First Team: 15 Daniel Lomax, 14 Myles Hall, 13 Elliot Brierley, 12 Lewis Barker, 11 Matt King, 10 Tom Eaton, 9 Nick Alsopp, 1 Tom Mantell, 2 Paul Millea, 3 Elliott Millar-Mills, 4 Ollie Parkinson, 5 David Marwick, 6 Frankie Barker, 7 Liam Parfitt, 8 Ryan Parkinson (capt).

Replacements: 16 Sam Moss, 17 Billy Robinson, 18 Michael Finnemore, 19 DR Smith, 20 Sam Broster.

T: Eliot Brierley 17, Matt King 52.

P: Lewis Barker 39, 58.

C: Lewis Barker 17.