TABLE TOPPERS TOPPLED
Firsts overcome a nervy start to secure a superb bonus point victory as recorded by Mike Smith.
Southport welcomed early league frontrunners Widnes to Waterloo Rd last Saturday, together with a well-supported following, creating a great atmosphere for exciting open rugby to take the centre stage. Unfortunately for the home faithful, a scrappy first half saw ‘Port behind at the break. However a reinvigorated shift in the second, with three unanswered tries, saw Southport comfortably over the winning line and Widnes suffering their first defeat of the season.
Widnes took the lead after only 8 minutes, when from a scrum on the halfway line, fly half Simeon Mafi found the gap and slid through before spreading the ball wide for centre Jamie Patient to finish well in the corner. However, neither team took a firm foothold in the contest with both sides seeking to kick for territory but failing to gain the upper hand. Widnes did have the better of play in the midfield, with powerful runs through the middle from prop Winstanley and the visiting hooker, and Clarke also breaking the line and kicking through only for the Southport defence to cover the attack. And shortly later, when Southport were penalised for holding on at the ruck, Kevin Leadbetter stepped up to convert the kick from long range and opened up a 0-8 lead.
The score seemed to rally Southport and the home side then enjoyed a period of pressure in the Wids 22, Joe Mawdsley going close and Col Toohey and Colin Fearns threatening the line. The pressure told when from a catch and drive at the lineout the forwards drove to the line, augmented by most of the backs, before Josh Critchley attacked from the back and dived over the line. But Widnes finished the half stronger and Leadbetter had two further opportunities to extend the lead from penalty kicks, the first hitting the uprights, the second drifting wide, so Southport went into the break fortunate to be only 5-8 down with all to play for.
As the second period started it was Southport who were first out of the blocks, immediately taking the game to Widnes, with strong runs from Sam Cross and Charlie Attis finding the space with his boot. Pressure in the Widnes final quarter soon told, and when the visitors were penalised for another high tackle, Southport’s Jake Mann spread the ball wide, with the Toms, Hill and Peacock, combining well and supplying Chris Tees before he found Peacock back inside to cross the line. From the restart, Southport secured the ball before Mann executed a sublime clearance kick from his own 22 taking play up to the Widnes try line. ‘Port’s forwards duly responded and from the resulting lineout pressured the defence before turning over ball at the ruck, allowing Attis to find Cross on the charge for the second rower to crash over, converted by Attis.
Attis extended the lead a short time later with a penalty kick after more pressure from the forwards caused Widnes to transgress with hands in the ruck. However, Southport were then reduced to 14 men when Attis was yellow carded for holding on in his own 22, and Widnes enjoyed a period of pressure on the Southport line. But the home defence remained stout and even when facing a Widnes 5m lineout, excellent work from the forwards saw the ball stolen, allowing Mann to clear the lines. From the resulting lineout, Widnes knocked on, providing Southport with a scrum on halfway. Dominant in the set play through the afternoon, Southport set a solid platform before Josh Crtichley picked at the base and terrorised the defence who were unable to hold him, before setting the backs free. Slick hands, and the ball was spread out wide to Dylan Norbury who finished well in the corner before Mann capped off the move of the afternoon with a touchline conversion, as the 14 men extended the lead. Attis was shortly restored to the team just in time to add another penalty from long range to seal a dominant second half performance and an excellent victory for the home side. Final score: Southport 30 Widnes 8.
A big thank you to sponsor Michael Halsall and his guests for their support, and to Widnes for fully playing their part on and off the field in a terrific game played in a great spirit engendering an electric atmosphere and for their magnanimity in defeat. It is a pleasure to be playing against clubs like this at this level, indeed at any level.
For the Widnes perspective of the game click HERE