BONNIE CHARLIE IS PRINCE!
Southport faced New Brighton at Waterloo Rd last Saturday looking to avenge the defeat earlier in the season by the Wirral outfit.
Mike Smith gives his expert view.
For this fixture, injuries meant that the evergreen yet ever-reliable Mike Dale, Director of Rugby, was in the starting line-up, with Josh Spencer making his first team debut on the bench.
The match started as it would continue all afternoon with neither side dominant but both trying to play to their strengths. However, it was the visitors who went ahead first. Attacking in the Southport quarter, New Brighton were quick to react to several loose passes and found space for their openside flanker to cut through under the posts. The lead was extended to ten points a short time later when a well taken penalty was landed from distance after Southport were penalised for hands in the ruck. However, Southport immediately struck back, courtesy of a Jack Parker run, pulling in the defence and allowing Tom Hill to exploit the space. He found the gap and fed Tom Smallwood who, despite being tight to the touchline, took his opportunity well and beat the defence to finish in the corner.
New Brighton in turn replied and set up good possession that allowed them to spread the ball wide, and a missed tackle allowed their left winger in at the opposite corner. However, Southport responded and set up good position in the New Brighton half. Now Southport’s pack were in the ascendancy, and an attacking lineout gave the forwards the opportunity to catch and drive to the line. Held just short, Colin Fearns powered over from the back and looked to have grounded the ball, however the unsighted referee awarded an attacking scrum instead. Unperturbed, Southport’s front five held like a rock at the set play, allowing Kristian Griffiths to attack, and support from his pack saw man of the match Sam Cross draw the defence and put Calum Monaghan in to charge over the line.
With the momentum now with the home side, Southport continued to press and another score followed just before the break, this time supplied by great work from the backs. Pushed deep into their 22, New Brighton cleared their lines, however Hill took a quick lineout and found Smallwood on the canter. The winger showed pace and balanced running as he cut through the would-be defence only to be stopped short of the try line. However, the forwards were again there in support and quick recycling allowed Charlie Attis to spread the ball wide, where flanker Joe Mawdsley was in support, exchanging passes with Hill and getting on the outside for a captain’s try in the corner. Half time: Southport 15 New Brighton 15.
As the teams turned around it was clear that both saw the significance of scoring first, and as a result both defences tightened up and opportunities were at a premium. However, it was New Brighton who threatened to break the deadlock first and Southport found themselves camped in their own half defending their line. And just when the home side thought they had kept the visitors at bay, New Brighton were awarded a penalty at scrum time which they quickly shipped wide and finished in the corner, well converted from the touchline, for a seven-point lead.
However, the score seemed to rally Southport for one last effort, and they proceeded to launch their own assaults on the New Brighton line. A great break from Attis saw the fly half through, and he chipped the last defender and charged through to the try line, only for the bounce of the ball to evade his clutches and find its way into the arms of the grateful defender. But Southport continued to press, despite being reduced to 14 men due to injuries, and eventually the pressure told when the dogged Dan Whalen was first to react to the loose ball and ground it in the corner.
With time nearly up, Southport continued to attack from the restart and took play up to the New Brighton 22. Seeing the opportunity, Whalen flung the ball back to Attis standing deep, and the fly half attempted to drop a goal from far out, which sailed over the heads of the defenders as both teams watched the ball clip off the bar and over, to the jubilation of the Waterloo Rd faithful. Southport managed to close out the game in the remaining moments and take the victor’s spoils, winning the contest by the width of the crossbar. Final score: Southport 23 New Brighton 22.
Proud club President Graham Ellis commented afterwards "make no mistake to respond in this manner to the heavy defeat earlier in the season against a club of this status and to be above them in the League table is a real feather in the cap for the lads and the club. And what a way to do it right at the end".