Lining up against Mossley Hill in the second round of the Lancashire Plate last Saturday at Waterloo Road, Southport were unsure what to expect.
Lining up against Mossley Hill in the second round of the Lancashire Plate last Saturday at Waterloo Road, Southport were unsure what to expect. Their opponents play in Lancashire North Division 2, nominally one level below Southport in the RFU league structure, but they have lost only one game this season, against Manchester Medics. Southport’s form has been somewhat inconsistent this season.
They had selected their strongest team available, but were missing centre Olie Brown with a dislocated thumb, and scrumhalf Andy Boland with a damaged leg. Their replacements, Shane Cook and Joe Mawdsley, always give good accounts of themselves, so the team should have started with plenty of confidence.
However, Mossley Hill did not come to lose this game, and from the start it was clear that their forwards were a good match for the Southport eight. The strong wind favoured the visitors in the first half, and home side found themselves pinned in their own half of the pitch for long periods. They were perhaps fortunate not to concede several penalties under these conditions, but Mossley Hill did manage to kick one goal to open the scoring. An attack by Southport could have resulted in a try out wide on the left, but Clark Walton at outside centre kept to the game-plan, and moved the ball back to the supporting forwards. Safety-first, when playing into the wind, was a sound policy.
A 3-0 deficit at half-time gave Southport some encouragement for the remainder of the game, but stern words by coach Simon Kilshaw did produce the desired effect, and Southport played the next twenty minutes in the downwind end of the pitch. Cook made a half-break on the 22 metre line, and the ball was recycled quickly to Chris Tees on the left wing, who skated into the corner for a good try, which was followed by a magnificent conversion kick by Danny Banks.
Now Southport, with a lead of 10-3, should have dominated the game, but they failed to increase the tempo, and suffered from lack of possession from line-outs, mainly due to an injury to captain Gareth Lang. He was replaced by Mike Dale for the last twenty minutes.
Now it was Mossley Hill’s turn to create some havoc, and their threequarters made the most of their limited possession. They managed to turn a Southport attack into a good scoring chance with a break by their stand-off down the blindside. He found the right winger on halfway, with the Southport defences in tatters. He flew down the touchline, and a match-equalling try seemed a certainty, until he was stopped by a superb covering tackle from stand-off Danny Banks just ten yards from the corner flag.
This saved the day for Southport, and they returned to the attack with the determination that they would not retreat from the Mossley Hill half of the pitch without scoring. This they did in the last minute of the game, when Dave Gairn managed to nail the opposition stand-off on the try line. The ball was loose, and Banks was on-hand to pick-up and score the final try. Alas, he missed the conversion kick when the wind took the ball off the kicking tee, but his heroic efforts during the game won him the man-of-the match award.
The Lancashire Plate competition will continue with the semi-finals when the organisers can figure out how to arrange a play-off to reduce the remaining teams from five to four.