PORT PAY PENALTY
Southport suffered their first defeat of the season despite a valiant effort as they were unable to topple visitors and league leaders Ruskin Park
Mike smith reports.
Southport had the perfect start, when from the kick off a massive hit from second row Sam Cross on his opposite number, followed by a great chase and counter ruck from his forwards provided clean ball for Jake Mann. Mann set his backs going, allowing Jamie Bailey to find the gap to race through under the posts for a 7-0 lead; the first time the visitors had been behind in a match this season. However, Ruskin Park responded immediately, aided by a string of penalties conceded by the home side that allowed the visitors to march into the Southport 22 where they set up camp with a series of driving mauls before back row Chris Lyon drove off the back to score in the left corner. With much at stake, tempers soon flared and a player from either side was subsequently sent to the bin for an enforced rest.
Southport looked sharp in possession and, with the sides now restored to 15 a side, were keen to continue the attacking rugby to which they have become accustomed. And this paid off a short time later, when from a free kick, Jake McMullen launched the ball high into the Ruskin half. Under pressure from the chase, the ball was spilled and Bailey was the first to react, chipping the ball through and recovering his own kick to ground the ball for a 14-5 lead.
However, yet again Southport were instrumental in their own downfall, after another yellow card, this time for a dangerous tackle, was soon followed by a third, after a series of misdemeanours at the breakdown. Ruskin heaped on the pressure and eventually the extra men told, when centre Neale Foster found the space out wide to score in the right corner, well converted from the touchline. Despite one Southport player returning to the field of play, Ruskin continued to apply the pressure. From a scrum on the half way line, Ruskin worked the loosehead side up, allowing an attack down the blind side that provided space for Mike Farrelly. The Ruskin winger showed that he hasn’t lost an inch of pace as he motored past the Southport defence and scored in the left corner, allowing Park to take the lead for the first time in the match, right on the stroke of half time; Southport 14 Ruskin Park 17.
After the free flow of the first half, the second became a much tighter affair, as both teams looked for an advantage but neither found the opposition defence wanting. Southport levelled the scores mid way through the half after being awarded a penalty for a Ruskin player joining the ruck at the sides, duly converted by Mann. With 15 minutes left on the clock and the contest very much in the balance, probably the defining moment of the match came when Southport looked to attack from deep in their own half. Bailey again found space and this time outpaced the Ruskin defence, crossing the half way line at a gallop. However with the try line beckoning, a superb cover tackle by Ruskin flanker and captain Adam Fogarty stopped the centre just short, preventing a certain try.
A missed Southport penalty conversion attempt a short while later added to the tension but with a strengthening wind, it was Ruskin Park who played the game out in Southport territory. The constant Ruskin power upfront finally told as the forwards forced a penalty deep in the Southport 22, presenting an easy penalty kick conversion. But the visitors were not going to settle for a 3 point win and, with seconds left in the match, broke Southport hearts with a series of drives at the Southport line before eventually crossing for a bonus point try, leaving the Southport coffers empty and the home side desolate. However, both sides should be proud of their endeavour in this close contest, and despite their clear disappointment at the result, the young Southport side received much plaudits from their seasoned opponents after the match, and will surely relish the opportunity of re-playing the St Helen’s side in the return fixture at Ruskin Drive in the New Year. Final score: Southport 17 Ruskin Park 27.
Club President Graham Ellis adds "thanks to Ruskin Park to sccommodating us for our annual dinner by reversing the fixture and bringing terrific support too. We hope to do likewise for the return."