FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS!
Firsts put on a diamond of a performance in front of new sponsors EFT Group to secure bonus point victory. Mike Smith reports.
Southport were back at HQ Waterloo Rd last Saturday welcoming local rivals West Park from St. Helens, with Southport seeking their first home win of the season, but looking to build on their bonus point victory from last time out.
From the kick off, West Park immediately attacked Southport’s try line and had an opportunity to open the scoring. However, the visitors were penalised just yards out, allowing Southport to clear the danger. And accurate lineout ball from Rei Chambers gave James Tomkinson the chance to run in and out of the West Park defence, before putting Tom Peacock in space, the winger just unable to finish the move. But as the visitors attempted to clear their lines, a Southport charge down saw possession returned, and with quick recycling, Dan Whalen found Rob White, and the prop needed no further invitation to crash over for the first score, converted by Jake Mann.
West Park immediately responded, and slick hands provided a couple of chances that the visitors just failed to finish, However, the third chance was taken with winger Ryan Litter finishing well. And from the restart, West Park put together a classy passage of play, with excellent hands from forward and backs alike, before number 8 and captain Matthew Cozens joined the attack to finish in the left corner, well converted from wide out. Southport then produced an excellent period of play, pressurising the West Park defence, and choosing to kick to the corners at penalty time to turn the screw. However, just as the visitors thought they had weathered the storm, a relieving kick was again charged down, this time the ball falling straight into the arms of Sam Cross, for the second rower to stride over, ground the ball under the sticks, allowing Mann to level the score with the extras. And shortly later, Southport guaranteed themselves a half time lead after a Tomkinson chase set up good field position. James Wright sent play wide to Tom Smallwood off the ensuing lineout, before good recycling and a great line run by Jake McMullen allowed Wright to find Cross on his outside to finish off the move. Half time: Southport 19 West Park 14.
As the second half started, it only took three minutes for West Park to regain the lead, after centre Joshua Ainsworth saw the gap and cut through unhindered to score a converted try. But again, Southport replied with simple rugby well executed, as the physicality increased from both sides, and Billy Nicol went close on the right wing. The pressure eventually told with the visitors penalised and Mann taking the three on offer and a one-point lead. And the lead was extended a short time later as West Park again tried to come back, but were thwarted by big tackles from Cross and Chris Cunningham, forcing a wide pass that was skilfully intercepted by Smallwood with only one winner from the ensuing footrace as the winger sped under the sticks.
With three quarters of the match gone and the scores still within a converted try, it was still all to play for, and Southport’s task was made a little harder after cumulative penalties saw the home side reduced to 14 men for ten minutes. But the defence was solid and determined, and held out. And just as Southport were restored to full numbers, West Park themselves lost a man to the ‘bin’ for infringements at the ruck. Southport immediately took play deep into the West Park 22, and found White again charging for the line. White thought he has sealed the victory, however was denied his moment of glory when adjudged to have been held up, by visiting referee Chris Bloomfield. But the prop dusted himself off and anchored the resulting scrum, so that Whalen could spread the ball wide to winger Smallwood, who finished well in the opposite corner and sealed the victory. Final score: Southport 32 West Park 21.