WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH....
By Graham Ellis
What a game! A humdinger to the end but every Southport player did their bit in securing a much needed victory as seen by Mike Smith
After three postponed fixtures and the Christmas break, Southport finally returned to competitive action last Saturday, welcoming visitors Tyldesley. As the winter sun shone on Waterloo Rd, both teams looked set their New Year alight, producing a bright contest that continued to sparkle to the end.
Southport were first out of the starting blocks, and an early penalty, after Tyldesley were caught offside, allowed Charlie Attis to convert and open the scoring. And the Southport pressure continued, after a well worked lineout saw Southport’s pack driving for the line, forcing the visitors again to stray offside and allowing Attis to help himself to another three points. Southport were soon again knocking on the Tyldesley line a few minutes later, however a series of penalties suddenly saw Tyldesley march all the way into Southport’s 22. Yet another infringement invited Mark Dickinson to tap and go over the try line, well converted from wide out by Paul Martin.
Southport responded well, and caused more problems for the Tyldesley defence, who again could only rebuff the attacks through infringements. However, despite the field positioning, the home side were unable to convert two penalty attempts, the second bouncing off the uprights before being cleared into touch. Tyldesley made them pay, and with the half almost at an end, chose to kick to the corner from a penalty. The catch and drive at the ensuing lineout was stopped, but when the ball was shipped out, the Tyldesley backs found space out wide for Martin to score in the right corner, before converting his try with another well struck conversion, guaranteed the visitors a healthy lead at the break. Half time: Southport 6 Tyldesley 14.
As the teams turned around, Southport knew that they needed to strike first, and strike they did, when immediately from the kick off, Southport launched an attack from their own 22. Attis saw the gap and set his team forwards, and following runs from Sam Cross and Tom Hill, Attis continued to boss the play before Kristian Griffiths was on hand to finish off under the stick, converted by Attis. Shortly after, following a powerful Danny Banks run to the line, Southport were awarded another penalty in the red zone after the ball was kicked out of the back of the ruck yards from the try line, and Attis added another for the home side to regain the lead.
However, once again, the lead changed hands soon after, when a driving Tyldesley lineout sucked in the defence and allowed Matt Soulsby to dart down the blindside and score in the corner. Tyldesley extended their lead with a penalty mid-way through the half. But Southport continued to believe they could create chances and find gaps in the Tyldesley defence, with the irrepressible Cross gaining the hard yards at every carry, and Josh Critchley finding space. An excellent period of pressure saw Southport build phases and take play deep in to their opponent’s territory. However, just as the move looked to have broken down with a wayward pass, Attis showed a piece of class, collecting the ball and stepping his man before putting in Banks, who had picked an excellent line, for the centre to score under the sticks. An Attis conversion meant that Southport had a one-point lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Back came Tyldesley, producing a sustained period of pressure in the Southport half. Despite having a kickable penalty, the visitors sought out a bonus-point win, choosing to kick to the corner. However, the Southport defence was solid, and repelled the attacks. Tyldesley were now producing arguably their best spell of the afternoon, and suddenly found space out on the left wing. However, just when it looked like the defence had been finally breeched, a last gasp tackle from Jake Mann saved the day. Southport cleared their lines, and gained the put in at the lineout when the kick came of a Tyldesley player, who was trying to keep the ball alive. With quick thinking, Tom Peacock collected the ball and took a quick lineout, finding Sam Cross, who fed captain Joe Mawdsley. Mawdsley ate up the yards before finding Hill out wide and the winger needed no second invitation to glide over the try line and cap a great performance and seal a well-deserved victory for the home side. Final score: Southport 30 Tyldesley 22.
POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Mike Halsall and his guests, and to SRFC members turning up in their droves, supporting the lads and creating a fantastic atmosphere pitch side and in the clubhouse throughout the afternoon. Also to Tyldesley who played their equal part in this magnificent match in an exemplary spirit and SRFC u15s player Joe Stewart who captured it on camera in his evocative album. With the 2s and 3s also winning what a start to the year!