FIRSTS BLOWN AWAY AGAIN
Southport welcomed visitors Hoylake last Saturday, the home team looking to respond to a loss away at New Brighton the week earlier.
Mike Smith reports as for the second week running a strong wind blew in from the Irish Sea, this time without the rain, reducing the contest to a war of attrition and again it was, for Southport, a bitter end.
Hoylake made their intentions clear from the start, playing the game tight, with their forwards looking to punch holes in the Southport defence close to the rucks and mauls. And their approach soon paid dividends, after choosing to kick for the corner as Southport were penalised for straying offside. A catch and drive, and the Hoylake pack was over in the corner. But Southport immediately responded, with Chris Cunningham leaping highest to gather at the restart and Hoylake themselves offending, allowing Southport to also kick deep for an attacking lineout. As the ball fell loose from the put in, it was Tom Smith who was first to react, and he pounced on the loose ball and powered over the line unstoppable, before Charlie Attis assisted with a well struck conversion. And Attis added to his tally a short time later with a long-range penalty kick after Hoylake were penalised following good work at the ruck from Cunningham.
Hoylake came back, and assisted by several penalties, were gifted good field position in Southport’s 22. This they again exploited, with the forwards picking and driving over the try line, well converted from wide out. However, when Southport got their hands going, they looked dangerous, and as Hoylake again attacked Southport’s final quarter, a patient defence saw Southport eventually turn the ball over. And with the ball quickly flicked along the back line, Tom Hill accelerated down the left wing before a perfect chip over the last man saw James Tomkinson win the foot race, with an excellent collect and grounding of the ball. Half time: Southport 17 Hoylake 12.
As the teams turned around, Southport saw themselves facing a strengthening wind, and Hoylake made the most of it to keep Southport at bay. A penalty for a high tackle early in the half allowed Hoylake to reduce the deficit to two points. Despite the conditions, Southport put some excellent periods of pressure together, and played most of the period in Hoylake’s half. However, every time the line beckoned, Southport were denied by unforced handling errors, forward passes and penalties conceded, allowing Hoylake to get out of danger. And despite charging runs from Sam Cross, and sorties deep into the opposition’s territory by Jack Boyce, Kristian Griffiths and Jamie Church, Hoylake’s defence held out, and Southport had to settle for an Attis penalty kick in front of the sticks, and hope that the five-point lead would be enough.
And ultimately, it wasn’t. Hoylake sensed their first away win of the season, and made one last assault. As the referee added on time at the end of the competition, Hoylake drove a 5m scrum back, allowing the forwards to once again pound their way over the whitewash. And with the scores levelled, it was a cool-headed conversion that saw Hoylake take the win and leave a desolate Southport team to ponder what might have been. Final score: Southport 20 Hoylake 22.