PORT LORD IT OVER SEFTON....
By Graham Ellis
but only just. Having scraped home by two points in October the margin yesterday was three. Phew! If ever two teams are well matched.
Full credit to Neil Ryan, Mike Smith and the rest of the coaching and support team and to the players led by Joe Mawdsley (out injured yesterday) for turning things round for the First XV since Christmas, Mike bearing witness to the latest epic yesterday.
Southport travelled away to Sefton last Saturday, with the Thornhead Lane ground holding up despite the previous week’s inclement weather. The visitors were looking to build on a solid display last time out, but this time turn performance into points.
The contest started with a midfield battle, Southport looking to punch holes and keeping possession well, and Sefton matching them in defence. However, as soon as Sefton gained possession, they made two quick line breaks, the second resulting in a score under the posts. Southport looked to respond immediately, and an excellent leap at the restart saw Tom Peacock regain the ball and set up attacking territory. Unfortunately, the winger was injured in the process, forcing Southport to make an early replacement, with Jake McMullen joining the fray. The visitors continued to press, and a penalty allowed Charlie Attis to set up play deep in the Sefton 22. From the ensuing lineout, a catch and drive allowed Colin Fearns to crash over the line, before Attis levelled the scores. And Southport continued to pressurise and soon had several more sorties at the Sefton line with Tom Smith going close before slick hands from McMullen put Rob White in at the corner.
Back came Sefton, and after missing a long-range attempt at goal, the home side set up good possession in Southport’s final quarter, eventually finding a gap in the Southport defence for another converted score. Southport continued to create chances, with Sam Cross finding captain Tom Hill who was stopped just short. But Sefton again found themselves in Southport’s half, and a lapse of concentration at the ruck allowed Sefton to step through the gap for an unhindered run to the line and a lead at the break. Half time: Sefton 21 Southport 12.
Southport knew they needed to score first after the interval, and they did just that. A cross-field Attis kick was well fielded by Dan Cresswell, providing an opportunity for the forwards to attack. Cross went close but was held up over the line. However, from the resulting scrum, Josh Critchley powered from the base and, stopped short, it was Gareth Lang who was first in support to pick and drive over the line. And soon Southport regained the lead, again courtesy of hard yards from Cross and Critchley, allowing scrum half James Tomkinson to release Attis, feeding McMullen, for the centre to stride over.
But, Sefton weren’t done in this topsy-turvy game, and like the parting of the Red Sea, another gap appeared at the ruck allowing Sefton to score a fourth try, again well converted, and take a two-point lead into the final quarter. However, Southport immediately responded, playing some of their best rugby of the afternoon, with an Adam Atkinson run taking play deep into Sefton’s 22 before slick hands from McMullen allowed Cresswell to finish off in the corner.
With 10 minutes left and Southport holding a slender lead, Sefton looked to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the visitors. However, Southport’s defence and discipline was outstanding, stopping Sefton getting out of their own half, and creating another scoring chance for themselves, after a determined Joe Bradford run put Cresswell over, only for the winger to have been adjudged to have stepped into touch-in-goal. But, Southport had done enough and as the final whistle sounded the visitors were able to celebrate a hard-fought victory in the West Derby mud. Final score: Sefton 28 Southport 31.