New skipper Joe Mawdesley could not have wished for a better start to the new league season. Mike Smith reports.....
Southport started their league campaign with an away trip to Ellesmere Port in the newly restructured Merseyside league and, boosted by the welcome return of Colin Toohey and Tom Hill, ran out comprehensive victors.
From the start Southport immediately pressured the home side in defence and good work by Jake Mann saw Ellesmere Port scrummaging on their own 5m line. Despite being the lighter pack, front rowers Dan Aindow, Calum Monaghan and Tom Smith heaped pressure on their counterparts, forcing the Port number 8 to pick up at the base. This gave Mann the opportunity to rip the ball from his grasp, and Danny Booth was first to pounce on the loose ball and cross the whitewash for the opening try. A second followed, after a relieving Danny Banks kick from his own 22, and a great chase from Hill and Dylan Norbury. This allowed Jake McMullen the opportunity to steal the ball, and it was quickly fed wide to an unstoppable Chris Dresher, who rounded his man and ran the ball in under the sticks.
Another kick and chase from Banks soon followed, this time the stand-off regaining the ball to cross the try line only for him to be adjudged to be held up over it. However from the resulting scrum, an excellent platform allowed Southport’s backs to execute a well-rehearsed move finding Jamie Bailey on the end of it to burst through and open his account for the season; the try again converted by Mann. And the bonus point try followed on the 20 minute mark from another relieving kick this time from Booth. Chasing the kick, Norbury was ‘johnny-on-the-spot’ as the ball bounced kindly into the winger’s arms and he sped through under the sticks.
There then followed a good spell of Ellesmere Port pressure that saw Southport pinned into their own 22, and from a misplaced Southport lineout the Ellesmere Port flanker was first to react, diving on the loose ball to register their first points of the season. However Southport responded with three more tries before the interval. The first was scored by Booth after a powerful Southport scrum, with Toohey and Gareth Lang in the engine room, allowed the flanker to work the blindside and outrun the defence into the corner. Then Bailey returned an Ellesmere Port kick with interest, running through the defence and feeding Hill to beat the last man. And finally Booth added his third, this time from a Southport catch and drive, again going blind and running over his opposite number to score in the corner. Half time: Ellesmere Port 5 Southport 45.
Southport started the second half as they finished the first. Another Bailey run this time found Dresher in support to finish the move off in the corner, before the centre again terrorised the defence and this time Bailey needed no assistance as he illusively ran from his own half to score under the posts. Ellesmere Port showed some good character and were rewarded with a try for their burly second row who crossed from close in, after a series of attacking penalties in the Southport half. But Southport were now able to attack from all areas and a blistering run from Norbury set up fellow winger Dresher for him to run another one in. Even when Ellesmere Port did have the ball, the Southport forwards counter rucked well, and from a quick turnover, the ball found its way to Bailey in space providing an easy run in for the centre. And when Southport were pinned down with a kick deep into their 22, it only provided an opportunity for Hill to outpace the first defender, before perfectly drawing the last man and putting Norbury through for a finish into the corner.
Despite the scoreline, Ellesmere Port fought doggedly till the end and earned another try, this time for their winger who evaded the tackler to score in the corner. However Southport were determined to have the last say. After some well recycled forwards work, the backs were again unleashed, this time Bailey finding Booth on his inside to round off the move. And from the restart, there was just time for one more Bailey blast, and this time he outpaced and outmuscled the defence on his own, to finish the match and confirm a comfortable win for captain Joe Mawdsley’s team’s first outing of the season. Final score: Ellesmere Port 15 Southport 90.