Southport RFC’s patrons were treated to a sumptuous spread at the Annual Lunch on Saturday before enjoying a feast of running rugby.
Mike Smith enjoyed the warm sunshine at Waterloo Rd as Joe Mawdsley’s men faced opponents Ellesmere Porti in their quest for the League Championship.
Southport started at some pace, keen to play rugby after several weeks enforced rest, and were soon attacking the Ellesmere line, with a powerful Sam Cross run driving the opposition back. This allowed Danny Banks space, and with Liam Webb running a good line to draw the defence, Banks found the gap to get over the line and open the account. Shortly after, Webb was again involved, after finding Josh Critchley at the lineout, and following a clinical catch and drive, it was the hooker who was on the spot to ground the ball over the try line. Ellesmere Port came back immediately and exerted some pressure in the Southport quarter, and a penalty provided a chance to kick at goal. As the kick drifted wide, Southport saw the opportunity to counter attack, but a wayward pass was well intercepted by the Ellesmere Port centre who strode over the Southport whitewash. However, Southport immediately made amends, and from a quickly taken lineout, Webb found Jake Mann, who found Tom Hill in space and he added the gas before finding Jake McMullen in support to finish the move.
Ellesmere Port continued to attack, and with another penalty in Southport territory this time chose to kick to the corner. But Southport stole the lineout ball and quickly shipped the ball to Mann. The fullback accelerated before finding Dylan Norbury on his outside and he skipped in between the two defenders before sprinting away to finish a full-length-of-the-pitch try. Soon Tom Peacock was in on the action, with a tenacious run pulling in defenders, allowing play to be spread out wide for Hill to finish off. The next score however was a solo effort, as Dan Aindow collected the ball from an Ellesmere Port 22 drop out, before showing fleet of foot and swerving in and out of the defence to score a classy prop’s try. In contrast, the next Southport try had it all; a Gareth Lang run around, a Norbury sprint and kick, a McMullen collect and a captain’s dummy as Mawdsley finish off in the corner. Three more tries followed before the break. First the forwards did the grunt work before Banks pirouetted through and over, then Crtichley got in on the act with a 40m sprint through the defence, and finally a sniping Dan Whalen run from scrum half saw Lang and Cross combine before Hill added to his tally. Half time: Southport 60 Ellesmere Port 5.
Southport rang the changes at half time but continued where they left off after the interval. Webb started off the first, breaking the gain line from the ruck before slick hands from Whalen found replacement Jamie Bailey, back in his customary position cutting his trademark line, and the centre needed no invite to power past the defence and introduce himself in the game and onto the try scorers sheet. Hill scored the next try, after picking the ball up off his boot laces before gliding past the defence, to complete his hat trick. Then from the kick off, Adam Atkinson, making his first team debut in the back row, collected the ball deep in his own half, and countered, finding Bailey in space for the centre to show-and-go down the right touchline and over the line.
Although the lion’s share of tries fell to the backs, the next try was courtesy of one of the lion hearts in the front five, Col Toohey, who made hard yards deep into Ellesmere territory allowing the kick to the corner, and from the resulting lineout, stole the ball to supply Cross for him to crash over. From the restart, hands from Lang and Aindow fed Norbury and his electric pace did the rest. There was just time for three more tries; the first another team effort well finished by McMullen. Then from a lineout and a forwards driving maul, Cross found the gap to score his second. And finally, it was a Peacock try, after a flamboyant dummy, that saw the winger become the eleventh Southport try scorer of the day and cap another resounding victory for the league leaders. However, credit should also be given to an Ellesmere Port side, playing despite a number of injuries, who in spite of the one-way traffic continued to strive all afternoon and were magnanimous in defeat. Final score: Southport 112 Ellesmere Port 5.