MANY HAPPY RETURNS FOR FIRSTS
Southport carved out an excellent away win at Birchfield last Saturday in difficult blustery conditions and against a determined opposition.
Mike Smith reports.
Despite having the wind at their backs, Southport were unable to get an stranglehold on proceedings at first, and the home side started strongly with searing attacks down the right wing. But once Southport began to put phases of play together they made territorial gains, and from a penalty inside the 22, Danny Banks saw the opportunity to tap and set Tom Peacock on the charge. He made good yards before finding Sam Cross in support who powered over to score in the corner. However, Southport then immediately committed a series of offences that allowed Birchfield to march down the field and take two kicks at goal, the second which was converted. So with only 10 minutes left in the first half, Southport only had a slender 3-5 lead and with the wind ever strengthening looked to face a real onslaught from the home side.
But this young Southport side has developed and matured over the course of the season and, led by captain Joe Mawdsley, they visibly upped their game to destroy their opposition man for man and put the game out of reach before the break. The forwards led the charge and from a massive drive at the lineout freed Dan Whalen who saw a gap, and darted through before a great off load set his supporting forwards on the front foot. With the defence sucked in and with quick ball, it was Calum Monaghan who was on hand to crash over the line. From the restart, Cross gathered and terrorised the defence, and the combination of a perfectly weighed Banks kick and an excellent chase from Jamie Bailey saw the centre hit man and ball, steal possession and break through to score under the sticks.
Chris Drescher was the catalyst for the next try, taking the ball deep in his own 22 before traversing the pitch at some pace, outrunning defenders and shrugging off four attempted high tackles and taking possession deep into the Birchfield half with good support from Monaghan. Quick recycling and the ball was send wide with Drescher again in on the action, before from the fourth phase of possession Banks saw the gap and dashed over to score the try. And the fifth came immediately after when the forwards were dominant from the restart, this time replacement Craig Pacey putting the visitors on the offensive. A series of possessions took the attack to the Birchfield line, and just when it seemed the attack had broken down and possession lost, Mawdsley was first to react, picking up the free ball and diving over for a comprehensive 3-31 half time lead.
Turning round, even the increasing gale was no match for this determined Southport team as they continued to dominate in every facet of the game. A scrum just outside the Birchfield 22 presented the perfect platform for Southport to attack off the back with a powerful run from number 8 Josh Critchley. He found replacement scrum half Jake Mann in support and Mann drew the tackle and with a sublime offload found Mawdsley in support for the captain to score his second. And the dominant Southport set piece meant that Birchfield struggled on their own ball, with unsung heroes, props Dan Aindow and Tom Smith, destroying their more experiences opposite numbers. From this turnover ball, Southport recycled well, and this allowed Bailey to crash through the defence and add to his tally.
Birchfield did score a consolation try after a relieving kick gave them territory and a loose lineout presented free ball and a score in the corner, well converted. But Southport still had more in the tank and finished off with two more tries, the first set up after another relieving kick was gathered by Peacock. He ran the ball back deep into the 22 before Mann found Jake McMullen, and his fleeting footwork outpaced the opposition as he dived over in the corner, before capping it off by converting his own try from the touchline into the wind. And the centre added a final seven points when in the last play a quick penalty yet again saw the outstanding Cross cutting through the defence before finding McMullen in support to round off an excellent performance from all eighteen of Southport’s men. Final score: Birchfield 10 Southport 55.