Preview to Macclesfield (a) 26.11.11


David Attenborough's blue-and-white army

Given that the match preview's usual, and less-than-immaculate, conception occurs on a Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it's surprising there haven't been more references to the 'must-see TV' of Frozen Planet.

All hail then, to the tenacious wolves of Macclesfield, who sustained considerable injuries during a gruelling battle, but eventually downed the mighty Ealing bison. That's right, for the second time this month, Jersey will meet a side who have just claimed a prized win over the league leaders.

Seventh-placed Macc's 35-24 win at Vallis Way, and Jersey's seven straight wins that have moved the Islanders up to fourth, means there'll be some tasty fare on offer at Priory Park this Saturday, even after the pre-match lunch of fish-and-chips followed by apple pie (just £8!) is cleared away. Kick-off is at 3pm.

Jersey's most recent win, by 26-8 over Tynedale at St Peter last Saturday, may have been one of the least convincing of the recent run, even if holding the opposition to just three points until the final minute of the game meant the result wasn't really in doubt. The winning habit is a handy one to have.

Injuries to props Jon Brennan, after just 14 minutes, and Ben Evans were the main downsides from last weekend, threatening to disrupt a fairly settled period of selection for Head Coach Ben Harvey. Further disruption may come from a more welcome source - returning players. Dai Maddocks survived a JRA league run-out on Saturday and is in contention for a front-row berth, fly-half Ross Broadfoot is fit again and it seems that long-term absentees Dave Felton and Glenn Bryce may not be far off, even if they don't make the trip this weekend.

Macc in 2011/12

Macc's win at Ealing was marred by a serious injury to No 8 Chris Jones, with the game delayed for some 40 minutes while he was treated for what turned out to be a double 'tib and fib' break that ended his season.

The visiting team scored an impressive five tries against Trailfinders, who ended up without even losing or try (they managed three) bonus points. Macc's Ryan Parkinson showed that Jersey's Guy Thompson isn't the only back-row try machine with a hat-trick. Hooker Sam Moss also scored while Josh Fowles managed a token effort for the backs.

As well as Jones, Macc are likely to be without the services of the brothers Mulchrone this Saturday. Full-back Fergus, the older of the two, spent much of last season at Sale Sharks before returning to Priory Park this season, scoring 10 tries thus far in this campaign, but is now unavailable, while brother Charlie, a scrum-half whose nine tries this season is just one behind his 2010/11 tally, is returning from injury.

Leading try-scorer from the past two seasons (22 and 20), Evan Stewart signed for Fylde this summer while the prodigious kicker Ross Winney has been only sporadically selected in 2011/12 to date, scoring 66 points thus far. Much of the responsibility for kicking has fallen to the younger Tom Eaton, who has played in 12 of Macc's 13 games, scoring 79 points from kicks, plus two tries.

The Macc pack was significantly boosted over the summer through the arrival of prop Gavin Woods from local rivals Caldy, the return of Martin Kent, another prop, from Coventry, and lock Dean Williams (ex-Sedgley). In the backs, winger Ed Stobart joined, again from Sedgley, to provide the pace alongside Fowles and Matt O'Regan.

The Macc coaching team is the ex-Rotherham duo of Geoff Wappett and Andy Northey. DoR Wappett usually seems good for a quote and (courtesy of his club's website) this is what he had to say about last week's game:

"Our pack was fantastic and did a really good job on Trailfinders. We always felt we were capable of doing that though. Ealing play an expansive game and like to take the ball wide at speed whenever they can. We'd talked about making sure we cut off this service and make them play narrower than they'd like. We knew if we could raise our game to what we know we're capable of and keep our concentration levels, then we had a good chance to limit the quality of the ball they got, and minimise their attacking opportunities. The other good thing about that pack performance is that it also created lots of good ball for us too."

Macc started this season with a hat-trick of bonus point wins that saw them top the table, and the 35-22 defeat at Blaydon was the only reverse in their first six outings. Then the wheels came off somewhat, with five straight defeats. Games against Rosslyn Park, Cov and Fylde saw Macc score 76 points, but concede 106, and to lose to Birmingham 21-17 after Bees' Russell Earnshaw was red-carded was a further disappointment. This was followed by a 25-13 home win against Blackheath and last week's triumph at Ealing.

Going back with Macc - club history

Like Jersey, Macc's history goes back to the 1870s, with an official formation date of 1877 and several ground moves prior to arrival in Priory Park in 1980. The 1980s also saw the club enter the Girobank North West One, a trial league which preceded the launch of the RFU's national Courage League structure in 1987.

At the turn of the century Macc were in North One, a.k.a. Level 5, and achieved promotion in 2003. This was followed by seven seasons at Level 4, including a losing promotion play-off at Redruth in 2005 and culminating in the winning of Nat 2N in 2010, when Loughborough were beaten by three points over the season, and the short-lived Championship Trophy clinched (in the same year as Jersey's Twickenham visit) with a 30-26 win over Barking at 'HQ'.

Last season Macc won 17 games in their first season at Level Three, achieving a total of 95 points and a creditable fourth place in National One.

Some of the better-known faces to have played for Macclesfield down the years include (thanks to 'Clubman' - the Macclesfield oracle - for this info):

Peter Glover - Bath/Combined Services/England (3 caps) moved to Macclesfield after his RAF days when he became a civil airline pilot operating out of Manchester and he played for a couple of seasons back in the 1970's.  Wing/Centre.

Steve Diamond - Current Sale Coach was a player/coach with us a few seasons ago before moving to Russia and beyond.  Hooker.

Steve Smith - initially played at Macclesfield before moving on to Wilmslow/Sale and then England (28 caps) at Scrum Half.

Dave Cusani - Ex Orrell & one England cap (v Ireland 1987) played Lock for us as we entered the league system.

Others include Alan McInnes, Steve Burnage (former player/coach and ex Orrell/Fylde) and several others who have played at England Counties level & Cheshire.

Following the game

Don't forget that you can keep up-to-speed with news from the game through the following channels:

• Preview on BBC Radio Jersey's Sportscene from 6- 7pm on Friday, and regular updates on Saturday afternoon (FM, AM and online)
• Preview in Friday's JEP, and full match coverage on Monday
• Scoreflashes on @jerseyrfc Twitter and the Rolling Maul rugby forum
• Match report on Channel 103 on Saturday soon after the final whistle
• Report Sport on Channel TV at 6.15pm on Monday, and online.

And finally… Lies, Damn Lies and Statbunker

While researching this article, it was possible to come up with gems such as the fact that Ross Winney scored 49 points for Macc against Waterloo in January last year, and has scored around 1,400 during his time at Priory Park, and the fact that lock Alan Marsh and flanker Ryan Parkinson are the only ever-present members of this season's team. Statbunker is a useful resource, run on a shoe-string and one probably shouldn't make fun of it, but certain claims have to be taken with a pinch of salt, or one could end up citing the following as facts:

• Richard Hughes became Macc's youngest-ever try-scorer when he went over against Cambridge in September last year at the age of 10 years and 264 days.
• Winger Ed Stobart is qualified to play for Equatorial Guinea. Or is this leading rugby nation (surely worth an each/way punt for Japan 2019?) merely the one below England in the drop-down list?

Stobart is apparently related to the Eddie Stobart whose lorries are regularly seen on Britain's motorways. This alleged connection spawned an entire thread on the Rolling Maul forum, one quiet close-season, with queries about Stobart being "in it for the long haul", whether he'd "deliver the goods" and, my favourite, a prize for the first referee to ping him for a "truck-and-trailer" offence.

Whether you're at Priory Park, or following from elsewhere, enjoy the game…

Tom Innes

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