Saints feast on Firsts famine
The sun shone on Waterloo Road on Saturday afternoon but for all the Southport RFC senior men’s teams the opening day of the season was a damp squib. The First and Second teams suffered defeats at home to Anselmians and away at Tarleton 2s respectively whilst the Third team fixture at Oldershaw was cancelled the evening before because the opposition was unable to raise a team. A worrying sign of things to come at this level?
For 35 minutes the Firsts looked lively and slowly racked up a deserved 16-0 lead through josh Critchley (try) and Charlie Attis (conversion and three penalties). The only nagging doubt was that the points scored didn’t really represent the pressure that Southport exerted. How this would come back and haunt the home side!
Such was the ascendancy that it appeared there was a nonchalance that the missed chances wouldn’t matter especially as persistent fouling had led to Anselmians being permanently reduced to 14 men following a second yellow card resulting in a red card. The game was seemingly won with the opposition in disarray on and off the pitch.
But as so often happens there are defining moments and in this game it came through Southport’s own indiscipline. A promising attacking position just before half time was needlessly thrown away when the referee awarding a penalty for the ball being kicked away. This respite enabled Anselmians to work their way up the pitch and win another penalty to claw back three points to give a half time score of 16-3. Still comfortable looking for Southport but only leaving the opposition only two converted tries behind.
This glimmer of hope clearly galvanised the away side in the opening minutes of the second half as Anselmians hit the ground running to assume ascendancy changing the balance of the match completely. Their territorial supremacy allied with possession lead to a “knife through butter” try next to the posts duly converted. The 16 point lead was now reduced to 16-10 but another penalty from Attis kept the home fires burning.
But it was papering over the cracks as Anselmians renewed their pressure to secure a penalty try as the previously dominant Southport scrum disintegrated. With the home team now reduced to 14 men to they clung on to the narrow 19-17 lead before giving away yet another stupid penalty in a kickable position in the last minute. This was duly slotted over enabling Anselmians to secure an unlikely but ultimately thoroughly deserved victory by one point. Their resolve and determination to turn a desperate situation around was to be admired, especially their outstanding defence.
Whilst on paper an exciting game for the neutral new head coach Neil Ryan will be studiously scrutinising the match video. Whilst Southport can cite the absence of three key players perhaps the most disappointing aspect was not to have learnt lessons from last season especially in respect of conceding gift wrapped penalties. With the Second team also crashing to earth in a 15-40 reverse at Tarleton full attendance and commitment at training this week is a must to iron out deficiencies in these performance ahead of daunting fixtures this Saturday with the First XV at home to Widnes and the Seconds away at Bolton 2s. The Third XV is at home to New Brighton. All games kick off at 3pm and all spectators welcome (free admission).
On Sunday the Colts make their home debut for the season when they host their counterparts from Penrith (KO 2pm) on the back of an excellent 27-14 win at Crewe & Nantwich. Indeed the performances of the Colts throughout the weekend especially James Cook, Sam Lawrenson, George Scottand, Callum Toothill was the bright spot for the Club and with last year’s u16s and u17s gelling seamlessly this squad is going to be pretty formidable.