Macclesfield 28 Fylde RFC 31: Last-minute penalty drama stretches unbeaten run to eight

Tom Carleton scored two Fylde tries at Macclesfield
Tom Carleton scored two Fylde tries at Macclesfield
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Fylde began 2019 by extending their unbeaten run to eight games, sealing victory with a last-minute penalty.

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On a beautifully still day at Priory Road, there was little to choose between National League Two North’s third-placed and second-bottom teams in this exciting spectacle, though Fylde again proved thy can tough it out in a close game.

Despite their position, Macc have improved steadily and had won their previous two home games, only losing away to leaders Hull Ionians by two points.

Their combative pack tested Fylde’s defence from the start and referee Andy Wigley sinbinned visiting lock Matt Garrod after only eight minutes.

Macc drove forward against a depleted pack and hooker Sam Moss touched down, fly-half Tom Morton adding the extras.

Fylde responded and levelled the scores after Chris Briers, making his 200th appearance for the club, found full-back Tom Carleton in acres of space to score.

A minor fracas followed but could not distract ice-cool Greg Smith, who landed the goal.

Macclesfield went back on to the attack and from an 18th-minute scrum captain Morton capitalised on a missed tackle, his delayed pass sending centre Tom Broster in for a try between the posts. Morton’s goal gave his side a 14-7 lead.

Play continued to flow end to end and on the half-hour Fylde hit back. A series of drives ended with Olli Parkinson powering over for a try on his old stomping ground. Smith’s conversion levelled the scores again.

Fylde went straight back on to the attack as an evasive run by winger Tom Grimes took play deep into Macc territory.

The ball was spread right for Carleton to dummy through for his second try and 13th of the season on 34 minutes, goaled by Smith.

Carleton thought he had a first-half hat-trick after another delightful backs move in the final minute of the half, but play was pulled back for a forward pass and Fylde had to settle for a 21-14 interval lead.

The early moments of the second half repeated those of the first with a furious assault by the Blues and a Fylde player sinbinned, this time number eight Jacob Conner.

It appeared that the referee awarded a penalty try only to change his mind and credit Conner’s opposite number Dafydd Rees with a touchdown. Morton landed a tricky conversion and it was all square again.

It remained 21-21 until the 73rd minute, though Morton missed a penalty attempt to give his side the lead on 62 minutes.

Then Fylde won a series of penalties in the home 22, their front row refreshed by replacements Bevan Rodd and Alex Loney.

As Macc lost prop Billy Robinson to the sinbin, Fylde ramped up the pressure and centre Connor Wilkinson twisted hover for the bonus-point touchdown, converted by Smith.

But Macc would not lie down as their forwards again battered the Fylde line. And a driving maul from a penalty on 78 minutes resulted in replacement Ollie Longmore breaking off to score. Morton tied the match up again at 28-28.

Fylde then pushed the Blues back into their own half and Loney made what turned out to be the matchwinning intervention when he forced the turnover and the referee awarded a penalty.

This may have been Smith’s easiest goal of the afternoon but it was a pressure kick in the 80th minute and he duly scored it for victory.

In injury time that seemed endless, Fylde grimly defended on their 22-metre line as Macc threw forwards into the rucks desperately.

This fourth successive away win left Fylde just three points behind second-placed Chester. They lost to a Leicester Lions side who visit the Woodlands on Saturday.

It was tough on Macclesfield, though in this form they will surely push away from the relegation zone.

Fylde head coach Warren Spragg said: “I’m really happy that we have managed to come away with five points, even though the overall performance was poor.

“We were off the pace defensively and our discipline was nowhere near our recent levels, so we will need to improve if we are going to continue to push forward and keep winning.

“We showed good composure in the last four minutes after conceding a try to win good field position for the winning penalty, then to close the game out in the final few minutes.

“Macc had won their last two home games and were robbed against Hull Ionians, so they are clearly a better team than their league position suggests. I expect they will pick up a number of wins and I’m glad one of them wasn’t against us!”

Fylde: Carleton, Hadfield, Briers, Wilkinson, Grimes, Smith, Crampton; Horner, Gregory, Lewis, Parkinson, Garrod, Vernon, Dugdale, Conner; replacements: Rodd, Loney, Ashcroft, O’Ryan, Dowds.