Port forced to take some strong medicine ...
Close fought game sees the Medics fight back.. Mike Smith reports
Southport recorded a home win last Saturday at Waterloo Rd, but it was a close shave with visitors Manchester Medics nearly nicking it at the last.
Indeed, it was the visitors who scored first after only 5 minutes. Southport were on the front foot with an attacking lineout however the ball was lost in midfield and Medics cleared their lines with a deep kick followed up by a determined chase. Some excellent counter rucking saw the ball turned over and Medics spread the ball wide for their left winger to score in the corner. But Southport immediately responded, pressing deep from the restart causing Medics to kick possession back. This allowed Jake Mann to put in a penetrating box kick and a great chase from Joe Mawdsley saw the ball bounce into the skipper’s arms. He quickly offloaded to Dylan Norbury and quick footwork from the winger saw him over the line to level the scores.
A second try soon followed, this time courtesy of a powerful Josh Critchley run from the back of a Southport scrum on the halfway line, before the number 8 linked well with Tom Hill and Tom Peacock to take play deep into opposition territory. Some patient recycling eventually saw the gaps open and it was Jake McMullen who crossed unhindered, before converting his own try.
Medics reduced the deficit shortly later with a penalty kick after Southport were penalised for not binding at the scrum. A scrappy period then ensued with both sides struggling to hold on to possession, but then off a scrum in midfield, Southport suddenly put together several phases of play. Taking the defence left and right, and with good recycling, it was Gareth Lang who plucked a bullet Mann pass out of the air and dived over the line to finish off the best passage of play from the home side of the half. So, Southport went into the break with a 19-8 lead although in the knowledge that they would be a man down for the first 10 minutes of the second half after a yellow card for Mawdsley on the stroke of half time.
However, the 14 men of Southport started the second period dominantly, and with simple rugby executed well it wasn’t long before Peacock was the extra man to touch down on the right and open up a 24-8 lead. With the bonus point secured, the home supporters were now expecting Southport to rack up the points, however Manchester Medics had other ideas.
From a scrum just inside the Southport half, the Medics number 8 picked and danced through the defence. Stopped just short of the line, quick ball allowed the Medics centre to finish off the move. The visitors were clearly buoyant by the try and it was they that now were playing the rugby, putting together several phases that was eventually finished off by the Medics’ loosehead prop. Another conversion and Medics were within 4 points. And when Danny Banks was sent to the bin a short time later, the visitors piled on the pressure, and with the momentum swinging they instigated an all out assault.
Now Southport were in defensive mode, and only managed to scramble back and clear their lines, setting up an attacking Medics lineout just yards from the Southport try line. But, a loose put in allowed Southport to turn over the ball, and then produce a piece of class, that changed the game. First the ball was worked wide to Norbury, who burned his opposite number on the outside before cutting inside and finding Hill in support. Hill then outpaced the defence, powered through the gap and then found Crtichley in support to finish off a length-of-the-field try.
Game over? Not quite. Southport failed to clear their lines at the restart and a loose pass gave Medics possession, and they again showed commitment at the rucks to allow the loosehead over for his second try and set up a tense last five minutes. However, the home side did not panic, and saw out the game in the opposition’s territory. And so it was to the relief of the Waterloo Rd faithful that the final whistle marked the end of a close encounter with the home side taking a bonus point win and the visitors returning home with much credit for their afternoon’s efforts.
Final score: Southport 29 Manchester Medics 27.