Southport faced Prenton away in the rain last Saturday, on a pitch that started heavy and became gradually ploughed by both sides. Mike Smith reports.
Southport were off the mark early when from a stolen lineout the ball was fed wide. Despite a stray pass in the centres, Tom Peacock picked up the loose ball, stepped out and found Jake McMullen on his inside for the centre to open the scoring. A second soon followed from another lineout, this time captain Joe Mawdsley cleared up at the back and set the ball up. Simple hands from the backs found Dylan Norbury on the wing and he finished off in the corner, well converted by McMullen. And the backs set up the next too, counter attacking from deep and setting Peacock free. The winger attacked the space and with full back Tom Hill as his perfect foil, dummied and stepped inside to cross the try line.
Prenton’s task was made even harder a short time later when they were reduced to 14 men for ten minutes, and Southport capitalised, driving the opposition back at the scrum before a well worked backs move set Jamie Bailey through the middle with Mawdsley on hand in support to finish off a training park classic. Southport’s pack was in dominant form and the next came from a Prenton scrum driven back and stolen by Southport. Quick hands from the backs saw Norbury in space and the winger did the rest. And from the restart, good hands involving McMullen, Peacock and Mawdsley, who seemed to be at the heart of everything, provided space for Bailey, and the centre powered through and with a hand off was over for a 0-38 half time lead.
More of the same was asked for at the break and more of the same soon followed. From the kick off the ball was delivered to Danny Banks, and he broke the gain line and found McMullen who closed down the space before putting Jamie Bailey in for the centre to score his second. The next came from a loose ball fly hacked through. Mawdsley was first to collect, and ran deep into the Prenton half. Quick recycling and a Sam Cross run drew in the defence and this gave good ball for Southport to find acres of space out wide, providing replacement Billy Nicol with the opportunity to crown his season’s debut with a well finished try.
Another Bailey effort followed, this time an unstoppable run from his own 22, powering through the defence, again converted by McMullen. And it was another stray pass that produced the next try, as Southport put the footballing skills honed in the indoor sessions to good use. First Bailey kicked the loose ball through, before first team debutant Rich Field beat the Prenton full back to the ball again kicking through before a McMullen dribble and pick up saw the centre finish off over the line.
As the conditions worsened and attacking through the middle of the pitch appeared like running through treacle, both sides failed to hold on to the ball, and there were more scrums than open play, with Southport replacement Rob White packing down and continuing the Southport dominance in the set pieces. Prenton never gave up and had a good passage of play attacking the Southport line but unable to ground the ball over it. From the ensuing 22 drop out, a charge down flew into the hands of Colin Fearns, who collected the ball superbly and set off on a charging run, taking play deep into Prenton territory before the recycled ball gave the opportunity for Jake Mann to slide over in the mud. There was just time for one more, when Southport again drove their opposition off a 5m scrum, anchored on prop Tom Smith and hooker Liam Webb, playing his first senior team of the season. This gave the perfect platform for number 8 Josh Critchley to pick and dive over for the final try of the competition.
Despite the conditions, the visitors managed to play some excellent passages of rugby and returned home, having toiled in the soil, with the spoils.So it was a comfortable win and despite the one sided score line Prenton never gave in, were gracious in defeat and were the perfect hosts, and it was fitting that both sets of players posed together for the cameras after the game.