HATS OFF TO CHARLIE!
Mike Smith somehow manages to keep the lead in his pencil and his eye on the game....
Probably the most glamorous rugby crowd in the land greeted Southport and visitors Sefton at Waterloo Rd last Saturday, as the local foes did battle on the field of play, whilst the popping of Prosecco corks signalled the arrival of Ladies Day and their finery and fascinators off it.
It was Southport who were first to fizz in this closely contested match, after a patient period of defence, allowing no space for the opposition. Southport stole possession and shipped the ball wide to Lawrence Abood and he charged down the wing, recycling well, and putting Southport deep into Sefton territory. Southport continued to be patient, with good carries from Josh Critchley, Billy Nicol and Rob White, before eventually good hands from James Wright and Charlie Attis opened up the defence, putting Tom Hill in on the opposite side, for the winger to finished well in the corner.
However, despite plenty of pressure in Sefton territory, with Southport’s pack dominating the forward battle and driving mauls sending Sefton backwards, Southport were unable to add to the score. And on the half hour mark, Sefton responded, with a break from fly half Wayne Osbourne providing an opportunity for centre Liam Brown to finish in the corner, well converted from wide out. And on the stroke of half time, Southport were further behind, when a quickly taken penalty on the halfway line caught the defence napping, allowing hooker Johnson to finish under the sticks. Half time: Southport 5 Sefton 14.
With the rain continuing to fall, the teams turned around trying to gain a foothold in the match, although naturally balls were being spilled by both sides. It was however Southport that scored first after the break, when a powerful Sam Cross run drew in the defence, and caused Sefton to stray offside, giving Southport a long range shot at the posts, coolly taken by Attis. With his kicking boots on, Attis was even trying from his own half. However, when Sefton were again pinged for being offside, this time it was a more straightforward Attis penalty that saw Southport reduce the lead to three points. And Attis added an another shortly later, when Sefton were penalised for a deliberate knock on in their own 22, allowing the centre to level the scores.
But, having clawed themselves back to parity, Southport saw Sefton immediately regain the lead, after some excellent hands saw them over in the right corner, despite a last gasp tackle from Jack Boyce. Southport again responded, and camped in Sefton’s 22. Boyce went close with a powerful drive, and Southport again drove their opposing scrum back, with Crtichley also stopped inches short. However, Sefton couldn’t hold the Southport pack, with Jamie Church, Rei Chambers and Rob White anchoring the set plays. And when another Southport scrum was prevented crossing the line by foul play, Dan Whalen tapped and fed the ball out to Hill for the winger to score his second. A touchline conversion from Attis saw the home side take a two-point lead with ten minutes to play.
And with the upper hand, Southport played nine of the remaining minutes attacking the Sefton line, with the visitors in defensive mode. However, just as the home side thought they had done enough, Sefton made a break into Southport’s half, and when the referee decided that Southport had infringed, Sefton were gifted an opportunity to seal the match, duly taken, with the ball just dropping over the crossbar. But Southport weren’t done. And when the successful conversion fell into the hands of Jake Mann, the full back sprinted to the halfway line to give Southport one last chance. However, Mann’s restart drop kick was charged down by a Sefton player stood directly in front of him, and the referee duly penalised the visitors for a loiterer preventing Southport from playing the ball, resulting in a yellow card but more importantly a chance for Southport to kick at goal from the 40m line. And as the crowd held their breath, up stepped a calm Attis, who struck the ball sublimely, dissecting the posts, and heralding the final whistle and a hard-fought home win. Final score: Southport 24 Sefton 22.