Fylde outplayed North West rivals and friends Macclesfield with a much improved performance over their display a week ago at Preston Grasshoppers. This was initially a more pragmatic game plan with fly-half Greg Smith kicking two early penalties. The free flowing running then began to cut holes in the visitors defence and three tries in each half meant that they always had control of the match. Tries by winger Tom Grimes, debutant flanker Sam Dugdale and Tom Carlton in the 1st half were added to by two for winger Henry Hadfield and one for the influential centre Connor Wilkinson in the 2nd period.
Smith had a good day with his kicking with a personal haul of 16 points. The only setback for Fylde was a serious ankle injury to the very promising young scrum-half Cameron Crampton which saw him stretchered off before being taken by ambulance to Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Everyone at the Woodlands wishes him well and hopes he’ll make a speedy recovery.
Head Coach Warren Spragg had prepared his squad well in the week running up to the game, learning from the Hoppers defeat. The error count was much lower, discipline was good and every one of the 20 players contributed effectively.
Smith opened the scoring with a 35m penalty kick in the 5th minute. A minute later a Fylde offence in front of their posts was punished by Macclesfield fly-half and skipper Tom Morton. 3-3.
The game proved to be a stunning debut for Sale Sharks and former Kirkham Grammar School product Dugdale who is with Fylde on a dual registration basis. In the 15th minute he carried the ball through the middle of the Macclesfield defence but was brought down 5m out. The ball was shipped quickly along the backs to winger Grimes who squeezed into the left corner. The conversion by Smith was good from the touchline and his side stretched the lead to 13-3.
Ten minutes later Dugdale’s powerful 30m burst took him right through the Macc defensive line this time and he scored near the posts. Smith converted for a 20-3 lead.
The injury to Crampton followed his neat break through the Blues’ cover. He was stretchered off and fullback Tom Carleton filled in at 9. Within a minute Carleton received the ball from a lineout catch by Olli Parkinson and sped 50m through the Macclesfield defence for a superb individual try. Parkinson had an excellent game against his old club, dominating the lineouts and always prominent in the loose. The scrummages were equally fought by the two packs.
It was the turn of Macclesfield to dominate possession and territory as the half-time interval beckoned. They tried battering down the Fylde defence and a desperate tackle by Connor Wilkinson stopped a certain try. He was adjudged to have done this unfairly and in the ‘red zone’ so was sinbinned as a result. The home defence buckled down and repelled the sustained Blues attacking as the half-time whistle blew with Fylde having a healthy 27-3 lead.
Fylde opened strongly in the 2nd half. Despite being a player short, the pack earned good possession inside the Blues’ 22m line and swift passing right freed winger Henry Hadfield to score in the corner. Smith missed his only goal kick of the afternoon but his side had a conclusive 32-3 lead.
Fylde began to use their replacements with Harlan Corrie and Adam Joyner introduced to the action. Right through the match, Macclesfield had periods of pressure on the Fylde line. In the 47th minute they made it pay off as, following a lineout 5m out from the Fylde line, the Blues pack set up a driving maul and hooker Sam Moss claimed the try. Morton’s attempted conversion drifted wide but the deficit had been narrowed to 32-8.
In the 50th minute Macc’s replacement prop Tom Mantell was adjudged to have tackled a Fylde player dangerously and he was sinbinned. Five minutes later the Fylde backs moved right and Connor Wilkinson made a clean break from 25m out to score with hardly a hand laid on him. Smith converted to extend the lead to 39-8. It was pretty much one way traffic by now and in the 60th minute from a scrum in the Fylde half Tom Carleton raced down the blindside, drew the final defender and freed Henry Hadfield to score down the right. Greg Smith once again made the conversion.
Restored to 15, Macclesfield came back with spirit and had a period camped inside the Fylde 22m line. Fylde offended successively and it seemed inevitable that the Blues would score another driven try in the left corner. But the Fylde defence was stalwart and refused to yield even though it would have hardly affected the final outcome.
The final ten minutes were played out at the other end of the pitch as Fylde powered forward. No 8 David Fairbrother, who had a very visible and prominent role throughout the game, broke over the line in the left corner but in the act of scoring a deserved try he dropped the ball. Shortly afterwards the final whistle blew.
Macclesfield are clearly in a rebuilding phase as their young squad are adjusting to the loss of some senior players since last season. They were gritty throughout but struggled to cope with the speedy and penetrative Fylde running. Good luck to them this season.
The interplay of the home forwards and backs was very impressive and a testimony to the skills-based training that is so much a characteristic of their style of rugby.
It’s to be hoped that the ankle injury suffered by Cameron Crampton doesn’t keep him out of action too long as he has had an excellent start to his Fylde career.
Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “I couldn’t have asked for any more from the lads this week. Senior players stood up and took responsibility for things that went wrong against Preston and the lads trained with a real determination to put things right. We wanted to get off to a fast start and play with more energy than we’ve seen so far this season, and I think we managed to do that for a lot of the game.”
On Cameron Crampton’s injury he added: “It was a risk coming into the season with one out and out scrum-half in the 1st XV team squad. So with Cam Crampton’s injury we’ve got some big decisions to make about covering that spot for the next few weeks. Tom Carleton was outstanding when he jumped in and looked a real running threat around the breakdown, we just need to work out if starting with him at 9 is the best thing for the team when we go to Leicester Lions next week which will be a difficult test.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Greg Smith, 9 Cameron Crampton (Luke Fowden 30); 1 Elliot Horner (Adam Joyner 47), 2 Ben Gregory (Tom Burtonwood 56), 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Olli Parkinson (Ben O’Ryan 65), 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Sam Dugdale, 7 Ben Vernon (Harlan Corrie 40), 8 David Fairbrother.