Having never played Marple before, we were unsure of what to expect, but were confident on a cold, wet Sandbach Morning.
1. Monty Weatherby
2. Joe Beckett
3. David Hanson-Isasi
4. Ollie Taylor
5. Harry Taylor
6. Tom Stock
7. Cameron Beech
8. Josh Brookes ©
9. Callum Darlington
10. Luke Pickles
11. Jake Meredith
12. Thomas Lea
13. James Finucane
14. Matt Reel
15. Jordan Ravenscroft
Replacements: James Parry, Jack Bayes, Alex Walker, Alex Wardle, Ben Wilson, Archie Irlam-Mowbray
After a few last minute changes due to injury and other issues, I was confident our side would strike fear into any one. This time last year, we played Bowdon in the cup and drew 17-17 going out and into the plate. Marple suffered a similar fate, and we could have met them in the shield final last year, but they stumbled at the Semi-final stage, but that certainly would have made for a more entertaining game.
Entertaining this game was, with both sides really going for it. From the kickoff, attacks were repelled by strong defences by both sides, as we struggled slightly to get a foothold in the game. Our forwards, for a change, seemed a little in-cohesive, and our backs, as a result, weren’t given time to set up worth attacks.
Indeed, it was Marple who applied the pressure, which eventually told through one break which was thwarted by a stunning tackle by Jordan Ravenscroft. We replied in the shape of a break by James Finucane, who was repelled by an equally wonderful tackle by Marple’s Full-back.
Once both teams had realised that each other tackling was of a high standard, it was then down to individual skill to try to find its way through, as both sides tried an array of different things. Josh Brookes kicked well into space, and chased. He looked favourite only for the bounce to take it away from him. These were the margins.
Another great tackle from James Finucane stopped another promising Marple attack, as again their backs were set free. The ball was then retained amongst the forwards, with possession being swapped time and again, through good play and bad.
An injury to Tom Stock broke up the flow of the game, and Marple took advantage, ploughing deep into our half. After a Penalty was conceded near our line, we failed to retreat enough, and a Penalty try ensued. A little harsh, but Marple probably deserved it on the balance of things.
Just before half time, Jordan Ravenscroft broke, and his kick ahead looked to have evened the score as the footrace between him and his opponent looked like a formality, a bad bounce took it away from him, but it would have taken the video ref a while to decide it, and the try was denied.
Half-time gave us chance to change things a bit. No one deserved to be replaced, as everyone had worked hard. Marple probably shaded the first half, but in the second we piled on the pressure.
A break from Josh Brookes, with Matt Reel and Luke Pickles in support, was stopped with a last gasp tackle, and our forwards started to dominate in the loose. We camped in their 22, but were met with stern resistance in all quarters.
Eventually, with the clock running down, Josh Brookes finally broke free to touch down, leaving Luke Pickles a tricky kick to even up the tie. 3 minutes to play. We attacked to no avail, and credit to Marple’s defence, who were determined and dogged, they held firm.
Everyone had solid games today, and really brought some talent to the table. Cameron Beech’s first game of the season for us showed us what we have missed. Jordan Ravenscroft was again, immense, and Josh Brookes ran at the Marple defence with pace and aggression. James Finucane was solid, and Jake Meredith showed us he is developing into a top winger. The forwards Man of the Match went to David Hanson-Isasi for work-rate and work in the loose, whilst in the backs, it went to Luke Pickles, for craft and imagination, as well as a pressure kick on the conversion to equalise the score.
A draw isn’t a bad result, but I felt there was just a bit of magic missing from us today, maybe fate has something else in store for us.