MUDDY MACC MUDPLACE!
Depleted First's up to their knees in it but but flounder just short. Mike Smith reports.
Southport faced Glossop in a rearranged match last Saturday, after the original fixture was cancelled earlier in the season, due to an unplayable pitch. Ironically, this match was also a victim of the weather, and with the home side’s pitches again unplayable, the fixture was moved to Macclesfield Rugby Club. It was clear that Southport needed to up their game this week, having suffered their heaviest defeat of the season last time out, particularly as Glossop had themselves recorded their biggest win with a ton up against Oswestry.
From the start of the match, the contrasting styles of play of the two teams were also clear. Glossop’s heavy pack looked to dominate up front, whereas Southport looked sharp with the ball in hand. However, it was the home side that gained the upper hand early on, courtesy of a route one approach from the forwards. Awarded a penalty, Glossop chose to kick to the corner and set up a catch and drive from the resulting lineout. Taking play up to the Southport try line, Southport were adjudged to have joined the maul from the side, and the referee promptly ran under the posts to award a penalty try, yellow carding Colin Fearns in the process.
However, the 14 men of Southport held out, and despite the heavy conditions and continual rain, started to find chinks in the Derbyshire side’s defence, with Jack Parker hitting a hard line, and Josh Critchley finding the gap several times to break through. However, when they were in possession, Glossop kept play tight and on the half hour mark increased their lead, again following a catch and drive, with the forwards trundling over the try line and the ball grounded at the back, well converted from wide out in the heavy conditions.
But Southport responded, and several passages of play were only thwarted by Glossop infringements and the home side were penalised numerous times. Good recycling allowed Southport’s backs to feed the ball to Tom Smallwood out wide. He took play into the Glossop half, and found Crtichley in support. Critchley took the ball into contact but stayed strong on his feet, allowing the support to arrive and causing Glossop’s hooker to be penalised for not rolling away and a sin binning for his troubles after one penalty too many. Having missed one earlier shot at goal, Southport’s captain Joe Mawdsley chose to kick for the corner, before the hooker found his man at the lineout setting up a Southport catch and drive of their own. With the defence committed, Dan Whalen again fed his backs and Danny Banks found Parker on his outside, for the centre to carve through the defence and dive over the line. With the conversion missed, Southport found themselves 14-5 down at half time but with renewed hope.
However, as the teams turned around, and as the rain continued to fall, neither team were able to get out of the quagmire that the playing surface was turning in to, and play became focussed in the centre of the pitch, with rare visits by either team to the opponent’s 22. Southport rang the changes and brought on replacements Mike Dale and Rob White, to remind the referee of the original red, amber and black colours of the Southport shirts. However, soon even their shirts were dyed with the same mud as their team mates as both sides continued to toil, but with chances at a premium, neither side able to break through. As the game entered the final stages, Glossop played as though they felt they had done enough and despite breaks from Parker and Critchley, and Dan Aindow finding himself in space, Southport were unable to put enough phases together to break down the opposition. So, with neither side able to trouble the scoreboard in the second half, it was the temporary home side that took the spoils. So, despite toiling away in the mud all afternoon, Southport left empty handed as far as points were concerned, but can take away some heart from the way they played and look forward to the next challenge – a home match against next week’s visitors to Waterloo Rd, Glossop, when both sides will do it all again! Final score, Glossop 14 Southport 5.
Club President Graham Ellis commented "Thanks to Glossop for pulling out the stops to get the match played and to Macclesfield for hosting at short notice. So short that even the Macc Chairman knew nothing about it! Saturday morning was akin to a geography lesson trying to work out if and where the game would end up but the performance and the fresh pies made it all worth while! Fair play to both teams for slugging it out in desperate conditions and to our young team for acquitting themselves well. Here's to next Saturday and to the golden sands of Waterloo Road."