NEW YEAR RESULTLUTION!
The Firsts hit 2017 running on Saturday with a solid, hard working performance earning the spoils at 'fortress' Widnes. Mike Smith reports.
Southport started off the New Year with a trip along the M57 to face local rivals Widnes, hoping to repeat their victory of earlier in the season. And after a hard fought contest it was indeed the visitors who secured a deserved win that saw the home side suffer only their second loss of the campaign at Heath Rd.
Southport took the lead early on after a powerful scrum put pressure on the home side causing the Widnes scrum half to infringe at the back, allowing Charlie Attis to convert the ensuing penalty. Minutes later Widnes equalised with a Kevin Leadbetter penalty after ‘Port were penalised for a high tackle right in front of the posts. However, Southport immediately responded with another Attis kick, this time from long range, after Widnes were penalised at the ruck. But, Southport were guilty of not clearing their lines from the restart, and although good work from Sam Cross regained possession and allowed the visitors to kick out of trouble, Widnes saw the opportunity to attack from deep. This they did, first attacking down the right flank, and then with the Southport defence scrambling to cover finding Antony Leadbetter wide out on the left for the winger to finish off in the corner.
The Widnes score seemed to motivate the visitors, and Southport soon took their opportunity to respond. With possession on the halfway line, Southport’s Jack Parker attacked through the middle, and found Attis in support. He went wide and then with a sublime pass inside found Jake Mann who picked an excellent line to gather the ball one handed and get behind the defence and under the posts. Widnes reduced the Southport lead to two points with another well struck Kevin Leadbetter penalty, however with the game very much in the balance Southport struck again. First Southport’s back made ground, with excellent hands from Tom Peacock picking the ball up off his shoelaces, before the forwards added the hard yards with powerhouse drives from Colin Toohey and Josh Critchley allowing Colin Fearns to dive over the line.
Now Southport were very much in the ascendancy, and with the forwards now dominating both the tight and lose, launched wave after wave of assaults on the Widnes try line. However, the Widnes defence held out and after a missed Southport penalty kick, made it to the break without any further breaches. Half time: Widnes 11 Southport 18.
So as the teams turned around, it was clear that the first score would be crucial in determining the outcome of the contest. And it fell to Southport again courtesy of some hard work from the forwards causing Widnes to transgress and punished by the boot of Attis. With a gap now opening on the scoreboard, Southport kept their foot on the gas and tireless work from the front row of Ian Smith, Rob White, Tom Smith and replacement Craig Pacey pinned Widnes back and starved them of possession. And the pressure soon told, when Sam Cross charged from midfield, sucking in the defence. Crisp hands and Southport shipped the ball wide to Dylan Norbury, and he put in an inviting chip setting up a foot chase that full back Tom Hill won, grounding the ball before Attis added the extras from wide out.
Southport now had opened up a comfortable gap but Widnes then arguable played some of their best rugby, starving Southport of the ball and nullifying any attacks. However, despite neither team threatening the try lines in the last quarter, Southport’s unassailable lead saw the visitors comfortably close out the game and safely over the finish line, sealing an enviable “double” over their local rivals and capping off an excellent start to the year.
Club President Graham Ellis adds from the sidelines "A big thank you to my counterpart at Widnes RUFC Paul Newall and his colleagues for their superb hospital all afternoon and their grace in defeat. A terrific, bustling rugby club. Good luck to them for the rest of the season. Also big raps to each and everyone of the Southport lads for putting in a shift, no more so than the evergreen Ian Smith and Craig Pacey for stepping in as last minute call-ups. With the depleted Seconds winning to retain top spot and the Thirds going down narrowly it just shows the great depth of spirit and resolve we have throughout which stands us in good stead too"