SWING GILLOW SWEET CHARIOT
By Graham Ellis
When push comes to shove, or more like sea comes to ocean, John Gillow (and Mike Smith) are your men!
The curtain came down on the Southport 2017/18 First XV season in defeat in extraordinary circumstances at Widnes on Saturday. No defeat is glorious but this was as close as it comes. The squad was so depleted through injuries and players not registered on Saturday morning that were serious concerns that a full side would be unable to be fielded and the game would have to be conceded.
But cometh the hour in the form of two turtle doves, world jelly bath champion John Gillow* and coach Mike Smith with almost century of years between them , three musketeering Colts James Cook, Sam Lawrenson & Callum Tootle and the other 13 players who stood up to be counted. After an understandably nervy start Widnes only breached the sterling Southport defence once for an unconverted try but with growing confidence the team gained ground and deservedly established a 7-5 lead through a Tom Hill try converted by Charlie Attis. The home team then flexed their muscles to establish a 15-7 half time lead and seemingly a platform to run up a cricket score.
But anything but! The Southport ‘few’ defended heroically and gradually regained the ascendancy. A penalty by Attis reduced the arrears to 5 points and with Widnes on the back foot a barnstorming try by Josh Critchley in the last minute after great back play again converted by Attis enabled a 17-15 lead. All that was needed was to stick the ball up the jumper and see the last few seconds out but for the eighth time this season (repeat 8 – Southport has the ignominy of being the highest losing bonus points scorers in the league!) this failed to materialise as possession was needlessly kicked away whilst the clock seemingly stopped for an eternity to enable Widnes to score a converted try in what did prove to be the final play to secure a 22-17 win.
So a bitter sweet end. As all season the way the lads on the field dug in and played for each other and the shirt is something to behold but ultimately the persistent pain of self-inflicted heart break defeats at the death has to be eradicated. Absolutely no doubt the lads have the talent, just need to up the commitment and hard work in training and selection with more nous to hit the ground running for next season wherever the team might be playing.
In the meantime the Shipwrecks enjoyed a second outing in as many weeks hosting the extravagantly decked out Congleton Vets. No one remembers the score but the action was captured by young Joe Stewart who has done a fantastic job with his camera throughout the season. Save to say yet again a good time was held by all.
Old Halesonians juniors were also in town on Saturday and on Sunday the Southport juniors again did the club proud in the Lancashire Finals, the under 13s overcoming Sedgley Park and the under 15s sharing the spoils against Fleetwood.
The Men’s final positions and points in their respective leagues was
1st XV - 9th (50 points)
2nd XV - 8th (47 points)
3rd XV - 5th (38 points)
On the Ladies side of things five Southport players have been selected for the Lancashire County Squad this season. Four played in the away win v Durham on Sunday and Waterloo Road club is hosting Lancashire Ladies v East Midlands as part of the Gill Burns County Championship on 12th May.
Looking forward to next season Southport First XV will be playing at Level 7 but the structure of the leagues is again under review so it may well mean a new set of fixtures including clubs from Cumbria which will make life nothing if not interesting. Come what may the Club will adopt to suit.
Whilst the season has brought its challenges Southport still has three teams playing in senior rugby unlike some other clubs around. A big thank you to all of the coaching, selection, captains, players and all involved with senior rugby for enabling this.
Next steps to seek player coach/s and meetings with Colt’s coaches to spell out next year and the clubs plans! Southport will be entering the u18 Colt’s leagues, however we will also be entering the u18 & u17 Colts Cups.
Pre-Season training starts on 28th June with players meeting week before for all (Colts & Seniors) possibly with a BBQ. Commencement of Monday night gym strength and conditioning sessions are being drawn up with home friendlies against teams from Shotton Steel and Wensleydale and away at Waterloo and Wigan.
Next season will see new shirts for all teams throughout the club based on the traditional red black & amber hoops with headline sponsors EFT on the front.
But just when you think this season is all over ….this weekend on Saturday, Sunday & Monday is the annual Sports Tours Southport Rugby Festival sponsored by Monkey Puzzle Day Nursery, Andrew Carney, Topping & Co and others. At present 64 teams from as far away as London, the East & West Midlands, the Isle of Man and Yorkshire are expected in the town with 22 teams on the Monday event. Volunteers required for all areas. Please contact Mike Dale.
*An apology to John from the sexagenarian (not what some of you think; it is in fact a person of the age of 60 years or between 60 and 70 years old) match reporter who inadvertently credited Jason Keating in this weeks Visiter as coming to the fore alongside Mike Smith when it was in fact John. Mind you there are similar characteristics in appearance! Well in John and Mike, true club men and also to new club captain Jason who in fact put in his shift at Glossop earlier in the season, outgoing club captain Colin Toohey, the eternal Gareth 'Pugs' Lang and DoR Mike Dale throughout, and to all the other stalwarts in the 2s 3s & Shipwrecks. The spotlight may be on the youngsters but without you guys the club simply wouldn't be what it is or where it is. And who knows then what the whippersnappers would be up to?
Gents this sexagenarian beast salutes you with a song we used to sing in the club house at Quintin RFC in London (as captured on film!) whilst balancing a pint on you head https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGbdoQk9EIA One for the Shipwrecks....now shall we go for a walk?