THE scoreline suggests there was considerable clear, blue water between the sides in this hard-edged encounter – but this only hints at the true picture.
Fylde knew full well they had to battle every step of the way in this North-West derby and could only consider themselves safe when replacement scrum-half Ryan De La Harpe crossed for Fylde’s fifth and final try right on the stroke of time.
Up to that point, Macclesfield had given the home side plenty to ponder.
The turning point was perhaps Ollie Viney’s near length-of-the-field try, for that afforded his side a lead of 31-10 just after an hour and came a time when Macclesfield had been pressing hard.
The home supporters could be forgiven for thinking it was game over at that juncture, but a spirited rally saw Macc score two tries to leave the contest on a knife-edge before De La Harpe’s nerve-settler. Macclesfield proved abrasive, enterprising opponents and Fylde had to dig deep.
There were plenty of plus points for Fylde, not least the display of teenage wing Ben Rath, who capped his debut with the first try. He also showed a willingness to look for the ball and test the Macclesfield defence.
Ben Vernon was again industrious at flanker, while second-half replacement Josh Beaumont made some important tackles when Macclesfield were at their most dangerous.
Prop Dan Birchall toiled manfully up front and skipper Evan Stewart, typically, led by example. It was Macclesfield who drew first blood with a penalty when Fylde strayed offside after losing their own lineout throw, Tom Eaton completing the kick.
Rath chased down Chris Johnson’s long-range kick, prompting a spell of pressure deep in Macc’s half, and only fierce defending held Fylde out. Rath marked his entrance in spectacular style on 13 minutes. Fylde shifted the ball out quickly from the scrum and it was worked into the middle to Rath.
He immediately put on the after-burners, jinked deftly past his man and then rounded off the move with a spectacular Chris Ashton-like swallow dive between the posts. Johnson duly added the extras to put Fylde 7-3 in front.
The home side built another attacking opportunity but Jonny Roddam’s pass for Rath went straight out of play.
Eaton’s pass did likewise at the other end, though Fylde’s quick lineout was a mess and Francis Barker had to be held up to prevent a try. Macclesfield did strike minutes later, after Johnson’s clearance was fielded by visiting full-back Jack Moorehouse.
Elliott Brearley embarked on a mazy run down the middle and glided past several less than convincing attempts at a tackle before scoring. Eaton added the conversion and now it was the Cheshire side in front 10-7.
Rath was at the forefront of another Fylde attack as his side attempted to respond. The lead changed hands again on 29 minutes as Macclesfield conceded a penalty.
Stewart rose like the proverbial salmon at the resulting lineout and was then at the bottom of the ensuing maul to claim the touchdown against his former club.
Johnson goaled in exemplary manner from far out and Fylde led 14-10.
Oli Brennand was halted by Moorehouse after a promising run up the middle, then Rath and Viney combined effectively to pin Macclesfield back only for Danny Maher to be penalised on the floor. After the restart, Fylde built momentum thanks to fine foraging by Maher.
Josh Beaumont, on as a replacement for Paul Arnold, speared a lovely pass to Vernon, who rampaged through and linked with Stewart before Macc wing Edward Stobart interfered with the release and was yellow-carded.
Johnson landed the penalty after 46 minutes.
Fylde could not make their one-man advantage tell, and it was Macclesfield who came close to levelling during Stobart’s absence, knocking on with the line inches away.
The next escape for Fylde was when Moorhouse knocked on in a bid to exploit a gap left by an injury to Rath.
Fylde needed some respite and the got it by way of a spectacular try.
Brennand galloped 40 metres from deep in his own half before taking a return pass from Chris Briers and score down the left, cutting inside to facilitate Johnson’s conversion, which left Fylde two scores clear at 24-10.
Macc threatened to cut the deficit but a loose pass was gobbled up by Viney, who had Brennand in support but chose to go it alone and finish off an 80-metre solo run. Johnson’s conversion took it to 31-10, but Macclesfield were far from done.
Fylde had Briers sin-binned and the impressive Moorhouse crossed for a try, augmented by Eaton, after a sustained spell of pressure against the 14 men.
It was the signal for an anxious final 10 minutes, with Macclesfield in dogged mood, fighting what to them was anything but a lost cause.
That was emphasised when Moorhouse found Stobart with a smart pass and he scored a deserved try. The conversion was missed, but with their lead cut to nine Fylde had more work to do.
In a finale played out in teeming rain, Fylde won a scrum near the Macc line and there was all manner of mad scrambling before late De La Harpe dodged through the smallest of gaps to score and finally seal the victory.
Fylde: Viney, Rath, C Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Johnson (Kenyon,63) Wallwork (De La Harpe, 75); Birchall, Roddam, Lavelle, Arnold (J Beaumont, 40) Banks, Maher, Vernon, Stewart.