A close encounter on the IOM
Southport 1st XV produce one of their best away performances of the season and came so close. Mike Smith reports
Southport flew to the Isle of Man last Saturday to face Douglas, themselves flying high at the top of the table. The visitors put in a sterling performance and although unable to topple the league leaders, left the island with the plaudits of the home supporters ringing in their ears.
Douglas started well and were soon ahead. Awarded an early penalty, they set out their stall, intent on a bonus point win, and instead of taking the three points on offer, kicked to the corner. A scrappy lineout followed, but the ball soon found its way to Carl Murray, and the impressive outside half found his way through to power over the line.
However, Southport responded well and captain Joe Mawdsley soon took the opportunity to test the Douglas defence, choosing also to kick to the corner at penalty time and set up an attacking lineout. An excellent take by Josh Critchley allowed the forwards to drive to the line, and as the attack slowed, Sam Cross added the power from the back, taking play up to the line. Quick recycling, and Southport spread the ball wide to first team debutant James Tomkinson allowing the jinxing centre to suck in the defence before Dan Whalen found space to feed Tom Peacock and the winger finished well in the corner. A well taken conversion from Jake Mann levelled the scores.
However, at the midway point of the half Douglas again took the lead. Again choosing to kick to the corner, Douglas attacked the Southport line, and as the defence scrambled to cover, Murray again found a way through to ground the ball, before converting his own try. Southport were soon hampered further when an injury to Whalen caused a reshuffle in the back line. And they might have been further behind before the break, rescued by a try saving tackle from Tomkinson, managing to turn his opposite number on his back and preventing him grounding the ball at the foot of the post protectors. So, the visitors turned around a try down with the game still very much in the balance.
The second period started with both teams trying to gain a foothold in the contest. However 12 minutes in, Douglas doubled their lead, again from the lineout. This time it was route one, with a catch and drive before the Douglas hooker was able to ground the ball at the back, well converted by Murray. But Southport refused to lie down and on 60 minutes a clever Mawdsley kick send Douglas back into their 22. Great work from the forwards turned the ball over and allowed Southport the opportunity to put together several phases, before Peacock eventually found the gap to dive over, again well converted from wide out by Mann.
Southport were now on the up and finding chinks in the Douglas defence. However, the home side managed to gain territorial advantage and when replacement Rob White was penalised and yellow carded at the ruck, the home side gratefully took 3 points from in front of the posts to open up a significant gap. Southport’s task was made even harder when Mann was also binned shortly later for a late tackle. However, the 13 men of Southport still believed, and put together an incredible passage of play, taking the attack deep into the Douglas 22 before mounting waves of attack on the home try line. But, despite charges from Colin Toohey, Tom Smith and the tireless Gareth Lang Southport could not find a way through, and Douglas were able to clear their lines and close out a hard-fought win.
So despite returning home devoid of league points, Southport could hold their heads high after putting in a creditable shift, and this emerging side will surely reap the rewards in weeks to come.
Final score: Douglas 24 Southport 14.