WIN IN LE WILLOWS!
No messing in about in boats for the 1s as reported by Mike Smith who has excelled again with his pen & coaching this season.
Southport concluded their travels this season with an emphatic win away at Newton-le-Willows, which sees them sitting high and dry at the top of the table with only a scheduled home fixture left to be played.
The visitors didn’t have it all their own way in the early exchanges, as Newton made clear their intentions of providing a physical battle from the off, typified by a big hit on winger Tom Peacock in the opening exchanges. However, despite their passion, Newton found themselves on the wrong side of the law and after several early Southport penalties, the ball was eventually fed to fly half Danny Banks for him to find the gap and opening the scoring. Southport had plenty of physicality to offer themselves, and a powerhouse drive from Tom Smith allowed good ball for Banks to find Jamie Bailey and he demonstrated speed and strength to outpace and outmuscle the defence and touched down under the uprights.
Southport power came to the fore a short time later when from a Newton scrum on Southport’s 22, the visiting pack shoved their opponents back, and from the stolen ball, Josh Critchley set off, finding the backs linking well in support, putting Dylan Norbury in space, and his acceleration did the rest. The bonus point try soon followed, aptly falling to the evergreen Gareth Lang, who ran his trademark line off Dan Whalen to snap the defence and cross the line. A fifth try came shortly before the break, after yet another penalty failed to disrupt the attack, as scrum half Dan Whalen tapped and set his backs off, and with fluid hands it was Jake McMullen who found the gap to break the line. Half time: Newton-le-Willows 0 Southport 35.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with Newton desperately trying to take the fight to Southport but conceding penalties that allowed the visitors to attack from deep. From such a penalty in Southport’s quarter, quick hands this time allowed an unstoppable Bailey to terrorise the defence and add to his tally. With backs and forwards combining well, soon it was Peacock who found space out wide to score in the corner. And from the restart, an excellent take from Smith set Critchley off, cutting in and out of the defence, before finding none other than Smith in support, in turn finding Colin Fearns in on the attack. Unable to finish, Southport were awarded a scrum and simple hands at the base from Crtichley to Whalen put Banks in for his second.
With Rob White now plying his trade in the front row, the Southport scrum continued to dominate, and another Critchley pick and go drew the defence and allowed Peacock to attack wide before finding Tom Hill across from his wing in support to finish well. A similar move preceded the next try; a huge scrum, good work from the back row sucking in the defence before Bailey was released to add the finishing touch. Slick hands from the backs set up Peacock for the next try, followed by a score for Jake Mann as the replacement full back popped up at the back of the ruck and flopped over the line. Then a Bailey run instigated a third for Banks, as the centre offloaded well, allowing Banks to cross for his hat trick. And after setting up several of his team mates for their tries, it was Critchley’s turn to bag one for himself, with another mazy run proving too much for the defence. Finally, after a jinking White run, Liam Webb provided a would-be-try-scoring pass, that was knocked down by an offside defender, causing the referee to go under the sticks for a penalty try before signalling the end to proceedings. Final score: Newton-le-Willows 0 Southport 95.
So Southport close in on the title at the end of a remarkable season. Despite criticism from some quarters regarding an imbalance created by the restructuring of the leagues, Southport have simply gone about their business in a professional manner, playing whatever team has been put before them, amassing an incredible number of points in the process, whilst playing their attractive flowing brand of rugby. But much more, this young team, magnificently led by captain Joe Mawdsley, has matured immeasurably over the season and can look forward with confidence and assurance to further new challenges next time around.