THREE injuries wiped out Sedgley Tigers’ back row and cost them a morale-boosting victory over promotion rivals Macclesfield when they went down 37-21.
The Whitefield men were in control at 21-15 ahead at half time when they lost two men and had another severely restricted by a knock.
Saturday’s game was the first clear marker of the standard which would be required to challenge for promotion from National League Two North this season.
Tigers knew all about Macclesfield having been regular adversaries in recent seasons before being relegated with them at the end of last season.
The Cheshire men had started this season well with three straight victories, and are tipped to be one of the sides vying for the top places.
Tigers, who went into the game with two wins and a defeat, were leading through two tries from Andy Riley and one from Jimmy Lloyd, all three converted by Steve Collins, when disaster struck.
Captain Juan Crous did not emerge for the second half with a rib injury, and five minutes after the restart, Jonny Bishop dislocated a finger and was taken to hospital. With Matthew Lamprey struggling on with an ankle injury, the Tigers were overrun in the second half.
“The injuries did for us,” said Tigers’ first-team manager Geoff Roberts.
“If they had been spread out throughout the side we would have been able to do something, but it was our whole back row.
“Luckily, none of them are serious, but it cost us heavily on the day.”
Roberts saw enough in his side’s play, however, to be optimistic his team have more than enough to be competing for promotion this season.
“Macclesfield depend heavily on their pack, and what Saturday told me was that we can get the measure of any pack,” he said.
“We have also potentially got an exciting back line as well, so we’re not too discouraged by losing that game.
“In fact, in a funny sort of way, we are where we would quite like to be because we are not on anybody’s radar.
“There was a little bit of people thinking we were the ones to beat, but now people might not be thinking that way and we can get on with it.”
Tigers travel to Chester on Saturday, kick off 2.30pm.