ONCE IS AN ACCIDENT, TWICE IS A COINCIDENCE, SEVEN TIMES ???
By Graham Ellis
No excuses, can only now be described as a habit this season. Anselmians, Widnes, LSH, Hoylake (x2) and now Leigh (x2). Mike Smith reports on familiar lines.
Southport visited Leigh last Saturday, with the Hand Lane pitch in excellent condition, looking to avenge a close loss earlier in the season. However, it was the home side that were fastest out the block and were two tries to the good after only five minutes, courtesy of a chip well gathered by the Leigh full back and a dart down the opposite wing after an interception.
The visitors then woke up and after Charlie Attis countered from a deep kick, and with penalty advantage being played Calum Monaghan was put in the gap for the hooker to crash over. And Attis soon levelled the score following another infringement in front of the posts. Now with some momentum, Southport continued to press, and a Tom Peacock run set Sam Cross free on his inside, the final pass just getting away. However, minutes later a stolen scrum allowed Dan Whalen to dictate play and Peacock again found space out wide. This time the winger needed no support and finish off well. Leigh reduced the lead after being awarded several penalties and eventually given one in kicking range, duly converted.
But Southport responded immediately, after captain Joe Mawdsley expertly won the ball back from the restart, and with Colin Fearns straightening the line, Attis found Dylan Norbury on his left and the winger showed pace and strength to get over in the corner. Leigh finished the half strongly, however Southport’s defence was dogged and excellent counter rucking from Mawdsley allowed the visitors to clear their lines and ensure a lead at the break. Half time: Leigh 13 Southport 22.
Southport knew they needed a strong start to the second period, however once again it was Leigh that started the half in the ascendancy. Disciplined Leigh defence caused Southport to lose possession in their own half, and with the ball turned over, it was fed out to the left for a run in at the corner. A penalty against Southport at the scrum gave another three points, and shortly later Leigh again found space on the left for their second try after the break to regain the lead mid-way through the half.
Once again, the visitors responded and put together a dominant passage of play, with the Southport pack on top in the set plays, and replacement Jake Mann now controlling the game at the base of the scrum. With Leigh pressed back in their own 22, it was only time before the gap would appear, and eventually Mann found Cross on the charge, before his offload saw the ball returned to Mann, and he skipped through and dived over the line. An Attis conversion saw the Southport take a three-point lead with little more than five minutes to play.
But not for the first time this season, Southport came within touching distance of victory only to lose it at this last. With plenty of time and space a clearance kick was charged down, and the bouncing ball fell perfectly for Leigh to ground the ball, a well struck conversion crucially taking the Leigh lead to four points. Southport spent the remainder of the half in Leigh’s 22, and despite having several kickable penalties, needed to go for the try. Monaghan went inches close, and an opportunities to take a scrum was spurned but in the end and Leigh’s defence held strong leaving Southport to rue yet again what might have been in another closely fought contest.