OLDHAMS HOPES OF SEMI SKINNED
The Firsts ably stood up to the stern challenge from the North Lancashire Division One league leaders to progress into the last four.
Oldham were the visitors to Waterloo Rd last Saturday for a Lancashire plate quarter final, the formidable opponents having only lost once all season and riding high at the top of their parallel league. Mike Smith describes the action.
With neither side able to dominate the early exchanges, Oldham were the first to register a score after an intercepted pass in the opposition half gave Oldham quick ball, and forced Southport into an infringement at the ruck. This presented an easy opportunity for the visitors to convert from in front of the posts.
As the half wore on, the contest lay very much in the balance with Southport looking for forward momentum, led by Chris Dresher and Jamie Bailey, and Oldham well organised in defence. However a prolonged period of Southport pressure on the Oldham line eventually sucked in the defence and caused Oldham to slow the ball down with illegal hands in the ruck, giving Jake McMullen an easy penalty also in front of the posts, which he converted to level the scores. Despite both sides trying to play open rugby, neither defence yielded, and the score remained 3-3 at the interval.
But it was Oldham who started the second half the brighter, and with minutes gone, they found space out wide which gave their left winger the opportunity to launch an assault on the Southport line. As he was stopped yards short, the Oldham scrum half was on hand in support to score in the corner, with the extras well taken from a touch line conversion.
However, the over exuberant Oldham celebrations seemed to spur on the home side, and they visibly upped their game, out rucking their opponents at the breakdown, led by Calum Monaghan who was everywhere around the pitch, and Southport were first to each loose ball. From such an opportunity, Bailey kicked through and with a great follow up as the Oldham defender collected, he took man and ball on the Oldham try line, forcing him to be penalised for not releasing and a ten minutes rest in the bin. With a man advantage, the Southport pressure eventually told, and with the Oldham defence stretched wide, the Southport backs spread the ball to feed Chris Tees on the right wing for him to score in the corner, conversion missed.
Despite still being behind, Southport were very much in the driving seat and ill-discipline in frustration was starting to affect the visitor’s game. Southport were now recycling well as the heavier Oldham pack tired, and when the evergreen Ian Smith found space down the blind side, his fellow forwards provided clean ball for replacement fly half Dan Whalen to supply Bailey for the centre to find the gap through the middle and score to take the lead.
A short time later, it was Oldham’s turn to have numerical advantage, when Danny Booth was yellow-carded for a high tackle. However Southport’s 14 men continued to heap pressure inside the opposition’s 22. When Oldham were penalised for again straying offside at the ruck, as the visitors expected a kick at goal, with great vision, Jake Mann seized the chance to tap and go and found Bailey in support for him to step through the defence and score under the sticks, the conversion this time gratefully added by McMullen.
Southport were now full in control, and the pressure of having played all but the first five minutes of the second half in Oldham’s territory was taking its toll on the visitors. Another great kick through pinned the opposition to their try line, and a great chase from Tom Peacock heaped pressure on the Oldham fullback who took exception to being unable to clear the ball. The result was a surprising scrum awarded to the attacking side, however Southport maintained their discipline impeccably, led by the control and restraint their captain George Baumber, and this gave them an excellent platform from which to attack. A powerful scrum, built on the rock of Dan Aindow at loosehead allowed Gareth Lang to pick and drive from the base, and quick recycling allowed Mann to find Booth in his first play after returning to the field, and he showed great footwork to step his defence and score the final try of the contest.
So Southport march on to a semi-final against Trafford MV after a controlled and measured performance on the back of a dominating second half. Final score Southport 25 Oldham 10.