DAN DARES AS FIRSTS BOUNCE BACK WITH UNBREAKABLE SPIRIT
By Graham Ellis
First team coach Mike Smith gives his expert report on a belter of a West Lancashire derby. If Carlsberg did rugby matches....
Following the hugely disappointing trip to Fleetwood new First XV skipper Dan Whalen galvanised his Southport team and proudly led them for the first time onto the Waterloo Road pitch for the opening home game of the season on Saturday against local rivals Tarleton. With both teams looking for a win after narrow defeats the previous week it was all set up to be a great game. And so it proved, with full credit to both teams....
Southport started strongly, and immediately looked to take the game to the visitors, camping in their opponent’s 22. Tarleton could only nullify the attacks through infringements, and after one penalty too many, saw a player sent to the ‘bin.’ Southport immediately capitalised and, choosing to set a scrum, played the phases before deft hands from Gareth Lang provided Charlie Attis with a stroll over the line, before the centre added the extras. Tarleton immediately responded, and Southport had their backs to the wall as they defended their own try line. A determined defence kept their line intact, however Southport were penalised for straying offside and Tarleton got themselves onto the scoreboard with an easy penalty kick.
And from the restart, Southport again found themselves defending deep and, despite keeping Tarleton out, lost hooker Calum Monaghan to a yellow card swiftly followed by a red for Billy Murphy. However, Southport dug in and a break from Tom Hill supported by a Dan Cresswell run saw Tarleton again illegally halt play, giving Attis a chance to extend the lead, duly taken. Tarleton restarted the match, Southport promptly knocked on, and from the scrum Tarleton found a gap in the centres before shipping the ball wide for Louis Houghton to cross in the corner. However, Southport soon regained possession and with time in the first half up, were awarded a penalty. Choosing to kick to the corner, Kristian Griffiths rose high to win possession from the lineout before James Wright created momentum allowing Danny Banks to send the ball wide to Jake McMullen for the winger to finish off in the right corner. Half time: Southport 15 Tarleton 8.
As the teams turned around, it was Tarleton who were first to show in the second period, and slick hands saw Houghton again free on the right, scoring in the corner before a touchline conversion levelled the scores. Southport rallied with hard yards gained by Lang and deft Wright hands giving field possession and another Southport penalty. However, Attis with vision, saw the opportunity to take a quick tap before putting Hill in space and over the try line. Yet again Southport failed to secure the restart and Tarleton possession set up an attacking scrum from which Ben Cromack picked from the base and crashed over. So, the scores were once again level, as the game entered the final quarter.
And now Southport shone. Despite a man down, the scrum held strong, with Callum Tootle earning his corn in the front row, and this allowed another Southport attack. Wright cut an excellent line and this time crossed the whitewash unaided, for Southport to hit the front once again. And that’s where they stayed. As yet another yellow card was issued, this time for a swinging Tarleton arm, Southport were again on the attack. Jordan Caldwell made the break, supported by Lang, before the hard graft from the forwards eventually allowed Monaghan to cross over for a decisive try.
With parity in numbers for both teams following a second yellow card offence by a Tarleton player Southport assumed full control. Chris Mayor, off the bench making his debut in the centres, and partner Attis then exploited the gaps. Powerful running from Sam Cross allowed McMullen to find further space out wide before Banks opened up the defence and fed Wright cutting inside for a classy finish, Attis adding the conversion. And with fulltime nearing and with one further yellow card yet again reducing Southport to 13 men, Southport still had time for one more try. Great work at the ruck saw Southport’s forwards steal possession, allowing Caldwell to power to the left corner where, stopped short, Southport recycled and spread the ball wide for McMullen to finish in the opposite corner. So, Whalen's wonders gained their first win of the season after an excellent all-round performance and can now look forward to the challenge of an away trip to undefeated Altringham Kersal next time out. Final score: Southport 42 Tarleton 20.