Four tries show character to secure 2 bonus points but once again Firsts fail to capitalise. Mike Smith reports.
After losing by the narrowest of margins on the opening day of the season, Southport looked to immediately respond with the visit of Widnes last Saturday. The teams were welcomed to a Waterloo Road ground that was in the middle of its very own Nick Knowles style make over, courtesy of The Forshaw Group and supported by the U14’s boys and parents. But soon the power tools and paint brushes were packed away, and attention turned to activities on the field.
Southport were first to show, and turned early pressure into points. From an attacking lineout, Southport worked the ball wide, after a deft offload from new signing James Wright in the centres, and with the forwards recycling well, it was winger Tom Smallwood who was able to dive over in the corner. However, Widnes then had their own period of pressure, and found themselves with an attacking scrum from which they drove their opposition back, allowing Arnie Haydock to pick from the base of the scrum and crash over, the try converted by Andy Owens. Owens added another three points shortly after, when Southport were penalised for a high tackle. And Southport were further penalised after a yellow card for a player adjudged to fail to roll away from the ruck. Widnes quickly took advantage of the extra man and scrum half Josh Kenyon saw the gap in the reorganising defence, and cut through to extend the lead.
However, as half time approached, Widnes were themselves reduced to 14 men after a yellow card for a high tackle, and Southport put together several phases of play that saw them set up camp in the Widnes half. When the visitors were again penalised, Wright took a quick tap and looked for space, well supported by Josh Critchley. Good recycling, and Tom Hill was stopped short, however Southport worked the ball wide to the opposite side of the field for Tom Peacock to cross and narrow the gap to five points at the break. Half time: Southport 10 Widnes 15.
It was however Widnes that started with their tails up in the second half, and after some unforced errors, the visitors were soon again attacking the home try line. With their powerful pack looking to assert their authority, it was a catch and drive that set up another opportunity for Haydock to again crash over. But Southport came straight back and created their own opportunities, coming close, before a 5m scrum saw the Southport pack get the nudge on their opponents, allowing Josh Crtichley to charge over the line, taking three players with him.
With only seven points in it, both teams knew that the next score was key, and for 20 minutes neither could find it. Southport twice thought they had broken through for a try, only to be called back by the referee both times for a forward pass. With the pressure mounting from the home side, Widnes found the chance to clear their lines, and a good chase put pressure on the Southport defence, causing them to be penalised for not rolling away, allowing Owens the chance to kick the points and effectively seal the match.
However, Southport were not convinced, and to their credit immediately responded, determined to get something out of their afternoon’s efforts. An attacking run from Hill again set up territorial advantage and after good work from the forwards, captain Joe Mawdsley was over in the corner. There was still just about time left to restart the contest, however Widnes were able to see the match out and claim their second victory of the season.
So, Southport again came out second best after a close contest. However, they should take heart in the way they responded at the death salvaging two bonus points, and take this into their next match away at newly promoted Tyldesley next Saturday. Final score: Southport 20 Widnes 25.