FIRSTS ALIVE, ALIVE, OH
By Graham Ellis
What a way to bounce back! Mike Smith reports as Southport dig deep to overturn last weeks battering at Broughton Park, then a 12 point deficit.
Southport welcomed Bowdon on St Patricks Day to a wintry Waterloo Road for the rearranged fixture. With a blank Saturday originally earmarked several players had organised a 'weather weekend' break away and the best that could be expected in truth was damage limitation in the aftermath of the heavy defeat at the hands of the league leaders last time out and with the visitors looking to build on their fourth-place position. Several enforced positional changes were necessary most notably skipper Joe Mawdsley, normally a flanker, moving to scrum half and Charlie Attis relocating from stand-off to fullback. And things looked even worse when young Jack Boyce injured his ankle in the warm-up necessitating Director of Rugby Mike Dale to don his boots. But how wrong could you be and cometh the (early) hour....
The home side started brightly, with Southport's pack dominating the set plays, and a Colin Fearns break through the middle created an excellent chance that alas Southport were unable to finish. Southport had another chance to take an early lead from a penalty kick into a strengthening wind. However, Bowdon weathered the storm and took play deep into Southport's 22, creating pressure with forward play that saw the visitors cross the line in the corner and open the scoring.
Southport continued to find gaps in the defence, with Sam Cross powering off the base of the scrum. But, without support, Bowdon turned over the ball, before missed tackles saw second row Daniel Brown cruising over in the corner for a well taken try, increasing the Bowdon lead. The visitors were visibly buoyed by the score and started to put further pressure on the home side, with the forwards punching close to the rucks. But Southport's defence held out, and in possession caused problems for the visitors. Good ball retention from the forwards allowed outside half Danny Banks to find the gap twice, and the second time he supplied Josh Critchley in support. Despite the attentions of three defenders, Crtichley showed power to cross the line and ground the ball, reducing the deficit at the break. So, despite an indifferent first half, Southport turned around knowing that the game was there for the taking, if they could increase their intensity in the second. Half time: Southport 5 Bowdon 12.
Southport started the second period with a renewed fervour and made inroads into the Bowdon lead early on, after Bowdon were penalised for one to many infringements at the ruck and awarded a yellow card to boot. Ill-disciplined saw the visitors marched back further, allowing Charlie Attis a shot at goal, duly taken. And, still with the numerical advantage, Southport continued to press. Joe Mawdsley found Joe Bradford free in the centre, and with the defence drifting, Bradford cut inside, broke two tackles, and finished in style, Attis adding the extras.
Bowdon responded, and a good period of pressure inside Southport's last quarter saw the visiting forwards again power over from close range. But 'Port responded immediately, and a Gareth Lang break saw the visitors again penalised for holding on, allowing Attis to convert another penalty and open up a slender lead. And now playing with confidence and composure, Southport once again broke the Bowdon defence following another Banks line break and a pass, well fielded by Cross, provided the opportunity for Kristin Griffiths to attack. The second row backed himself, cut inside and finished well.
And, a short while later, an excellent steal at the lineout by Critchley allowed Southport to again attack. Despite the 'Beast from the East' starting to make its appearance at Waterloo Road, it was the 'Beast from Over (or is it up & under?) the Fence' that was causing the visitors the most problems. Cross again made the hard yards, ably supported by Critchley and Calum Monaghan before Attis joined the party to twist and turn his way over the line and score in the corner, before converting his own try and sealing the 32-17 victory.
So, an excellent second-half performance and bags of character from each and every player in face of adversity saw Southport back to winning ways in style. Full credit to all and the team can now look forward to building on this performance with a challenging visit to Leigh next Saturday. Note the fixture is shown as Southport at home on the web site but because the first fixture earlier in the season was reversed this is now to be played away.