PORT STEP UP TO THE MARK IN LEAGUE OPENER
Southport 1st XV matched a tough Anselmians outfit all the way with two late tries securing the spoils.
Mike Smith reports.
Newly promoted Southport started life in Lancashire and Cheshire Division 1 with an assured home win against visitors Anselmians after a hard fought match, with both teams attempting to play expansive rugby despite the persistent rain that fell all afternoon.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead after Southport’s initial transgressions at the breakdown provided a series of penalties that allowed Anselmians to take territorial advantage. A further penalty for not rolling away at the tackle provided a simple chance for Anselmians to kick at goal and open the scoring. And a short time later when Southport were again penalised, this time for a player being off their feet at the ruck, Anselmians’ fly half stepped up to double the lead.
This seemed to galvanise the home side, and despite playing into the wind and rain, Southport’s forwards started to gain a foothold in the rucks, matching the Anselmians’ physicality and driving the Saints back into their own half. Such was the growing domination that captain Joe Mawdsley chose to take the scrum when awarded a penalty in the Anselmians’ 22, and from a solid base, the forwards recycled well, before Dan Whalen, on as an early replacement, found Jake McMullen running an excellent line. As the centre took the hit, with a sublime offload McMullen found Mawdsley on his inside for the captain to appropriately score the first league try of the season, converted by Charlie Attis.
As both teams started to get into their stride, the lead changed hands. Firstly, Anselmians attacked deep into the Southport 22, and when the referee signalled he was playing advantage for a penalty infringement, the Anselmians’ burly second row dropped a cheeky goal from under the posts. However, Southport immediately responded and regained the lead from an Attis penalty after Anselmians’ were penalised for holding on at the ruck, and marched back 10 yards for dissent. And from the restart, powerful runs from Rob White and McMullen set up an attacking scrum. Another solid set play, and with the half time mark approaching, it was a case of “anything you can do…” from Attis, as the fly half slotted a drop kick from fully 35 yards out to take a 13-9 half time lead.
Both teams turned around raring to go and the first 15 minutes of the second period were eagerly contested with neither side getting the upper hand. However, Southport were then reduced to 14 men after a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and suddenly Anselmians were able to find some space and launch at the Southport line. An attacking Saints lineout provided good ball, and as the ‘Port defence rushed out, Anselmians’ inside centre managed to find a way through and powered over the line and under the posts. However, Southport immediately responded again, and a high reliving kick from Mawdsley followed by a good chase put pressure on the Anselmians backs, causing another penalty to be awarded for Attis to stroke through the posts and level the scores.
With Southport now restored to 15 men, it was Anselmians’ turn to play with reduced numbers after their try scoring centre was sent to the bin for a shoulder charge. Southport made the most of the advantage and heaped pressure on the visitors, choosing to kick to the corner from a penalty. From the resulting lineout, the irrepressible Sam Cross leaped like a (rather large) salmon, and an excellent drive saw Josh Critchley finish off over the try line. Now Southport were dominating all over the park, and Anselmians were struggling to get out of their own half. Even when restored to full numbers, the visitors could not hold Southport as they turned the screw, kicking deep at penalty time to set up another assault on the line before Cross, taking half the team over the line with him, still managed to ground the ball and assure the victor’s spoils.
So with new challenges for a new season in a new league, Southport continue in their old winning ways. Final score: Southport 26 Anselmians 16.