MANCHESTER NO OASIS FOR FIRSTS
The First XV and under 8s clubbed together for an afternoon out in Cheadle Hulme with mixed results. Mike Smith reports on the Firsts.
Southport travelled to Manchester last week to face a side on a winning streak and sitting second in the table. Although Southport won the respective fixture in a closely contested game at Waterloo Rd earlier in the season, the visitors knew that they needed to be on their ‘A’ game for this match against a club striving for a return to former glories.
Despite several changes due to injuries, Southport began well, as the infamous Manchester rain fell at the start of the match. Southport put together several phases of play, using the forwards to try and break through, marshalled by scrum half Dan Whalen. However, the Manchester defence was well organised and disciplined and Southport were constantly met with a red and white wall that thwarted every attack. When Manchester did get possession, Southport immediately infringed at the ruck, relieving the pressure and allowing Manchester to take play into Southport territory. The home side attack down the right with the winger only stopped by a last-ditch James Tomkinson tackle. But with the defence sucked in, deft hands from centre Anthony TiaTia put team mate Harry Noar in the gap for the second row to dive over. Another penalty set up a second try minutes later, when Manchester chose to kick to the corner. Manchester’s forwards took play up to the try line, and when the ball was fed out this time the space was found by flanker Mikey Williams who crashed over. And Williams added his second and the team’s third on the 30-minute mark when a catch and drive at the lineout saw Manchester’s forwards again threatening the Southport line, before Williams broke from the back of the maul and found the gap.
With Manchester now dominant, the home side sought the bonus point try before the end of the half and it came courtesy of a break through the middle by TiaTia who showed a turn of pace and power to elude the defence and cross the line. So, the home side took a comprehensive lead into the interval and left the visitors with a mammoth task, assessing how they might get any foothold on the contest. Half time: Manchester 26 Southport 0.
As the sides turned around, the winter sun came out and shone brightly. However, Southport’s task immediately looked even more gloomy when after only five minutes they were reduced to 14 men after a Southport player was sin binned for a high tackle. Manchester made the most of the numerical advantage and added a fifth try, after a long lineout throw found number 8 James Brodie over the back and he cantered unchallenged across the try line.
With 30 minutes still to play, Southport were facing a humiliating whitewash as the expected floodgates appeared about to open. But to their credit the visitors dug in and showed spirit, playing the ball wide with Charlie Attis taking control from 10. Southport made ground in the centres with Jack Parker breaking through and replacement Adam Atkinson unlucky not to get on end of a pass that would have seen him over. The forwards continued to toil, with Sam Cross putting in the hard yards all afternoon, however, Manchester’s defence remained resolute and the home side closed out the match without their try line being breached.
So although the game was pretty much done and dusted by start of the second half, Southport put in an improved performance after the break and need to take this in to next week’s home fixture against visitors Oswestry. Final score: Manchester 33 Southport 0.
Unfortunately not a great spectacle for our under 8s to witness but a pleasure for the Firsts to travel together with them on a Fusco coach, and for to enjoy a game against their Manchester counterparts and the excellent hospitality laid on by the hosts. Manchester Firsts now top the table and we wish them well for the rest of the season. Photos from the game are on view the MRC web site c/o Liz Baines at http://www.manchesterrugby.co.uk/photos/1st-xv-vs-southport-28012017-718008.html