Firsts put on a try-fest to wrap up a successful season in South Cheshire & Lancs 1 on a high. Mike Smith reports.
After several losses on the run, Southport travelled away to Anselmians last Saturday for their last game of the season, looking to sign off with a win.
The match started with an exchange of penalties. Anselmians had the first opportunity to kick at goal, however, with the penalty missed, Southport marched up the field and caught the home side offside, allowing Charlie Attis to slot the ball over, and open the scoring. Attis added another shortly after, following an excellent Tom Peacock break from his own 22, after great work from the forwards in turning the ball over. On the back foot, Anselmians could only again stray offside, allowing Attis to double the lead. And, from the restart, Joe Mawdsley made an excellent break, chipping to the corner, and setting up territorial pressure. Now, Southport's pack went into overdrive, and set up good possession freeing Jack Parker to attack up the middle, and allowing Tom Smallwood to find the space out wide and score in the corner. Southport continued to build the pressure, this time Jake Mann finding himself in space. Another stolen scrum, and this time it was Peacock that got over the line, but was unable to ground the ball. But Southport turned the screw, and kept the scoreboard ticking over, with Attis adding another penalty kick.
Despite being devoid of possession, Anselmians did look dangerous when they got the ball to their powerful backs, and were only prevented from scoring by a superb last-ditch Parker tackle. But minutes later, Southport failed to deal with the attacking threat, and Anselmians work the ball wide to score in the right corner. But Southport responded from the restart, turning the ball over, and with the Anselmians defence reorganising, Parker saw the gap and showed some pace to cut through the middle and out romp the defence. Half time: Anselmians 5 Southport 19.
With a notable lead, and now Anselmians down to 14 men, due to an injury in the front row, Southport started the second half intent on putting the game to bed quickly, and that they did. First Attis put Kristian Griffiths in the gap, and then supported well to take the return pass and ground the ball under the sticks. Then Tom Hill attacked wide, breaking through the tackles and rounding under the posts. And a short time later, a wayward Anselmians pass from the lineout bounced in the backs division, with Attis first to pounce on the loose ball, and he gathered well and strolled over the line. And with Southport intent on keeping possession, they were able to attack from deep, with first Peacock powering at the defence, and then a mazy Smallwood run taking play deep into the Anselmians 22, with Josh Critchley on hand in support to finish off an excellent try. With the whole team contributing, runs from Griffiths and Calum Monaghan again broke the Saints' defence, allowing the ball to be shipped to Peacock for the winger to score in the left corner, before converting his own try from the touchline.
With the result decided, Anselmians continued to play with heart, and Southport might have been guilty of switching off a little. Anselmians doubled their score after their powerhouse centre bumped off would-be defenders to crash over, and then added another try shortly after, courtesy of a lovely chip and collect from outside half Andy Cummings. And they were rewarded for their efforts with a bonus point fourth try, with time nearly up on the clock. However, it was Southport who had the last say, with Hill chipping through to the corner, and Ryan Bailey winning the foot race to ground the ball, and conclude an enjoyable afternoon's rugby.
So, Southport finish the season comfortably in mid-table, having equipped themselves well in this higher league, and can look forward to some rest before returning pre-season to build on what they have learned from their experiences this year, and set their sights high for next. Full time: Anselmians 22 Southport 57.