NOT OK AT AK
By Graham Ellis
Mike Smith's verdict on last Saturday
Southport travelled to Manchester last Saturday to face an Altrincham Kersal side who had started the season with two bonus points wins in their quest for an immediate return to North West 1.
It was the home side that looked most likely to open the scoring after a Southport error on the halfway line allowed AK winger Jack Wise to attack down the left wing, breaking tackles as he went. With a penalty awarded, Altrincham kicked to the corner and from the lineout drove to the Southport line. However, in attempting to ground, the home side knocked on and Calum Monaghan came up with the ball. Southport quickly shipped the ball wide, and from his own try line, Tom Hill took off and out-gassed the covering defence to open the scoring with a fine try.
Altrincham Kersal responded, and another catch and drive wasn’t dealt with, as the forwards powered over for a converted try to take the lead. But Southport were getting plenty of ball and creating line breaks, with Chris Mayor putting Jake McMullen in space and Hill again going close after a James Wright break. But, with the half drawing to a close, Altrincham suddenly found space out wide, Wise again breaking down the wing, before Chris Loughlin appeared in support to get over the line and increase the lead at the break. Half time: Altrincham Kersal 12 Southport 5.
Southport started the second half positively and again looked threatening. A well taken lineout at the back allowed Southport to set Mayor free, and he made an excellent line break to take the visitors deep into the attacking 22. The home side were penalised for slowing play, and Southport were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. However Southport decided to tap and go, AK won the ball back and cleared their lines. And from another mistake, the home side were soon attacking deep into Southport’s 22, using their forwards to keep possession tight to the ruck before eventually wearing the defence down and crossing for their third try.
After such a close contest, the try saw clear daylight between the teams. The home side now began to have periods of good possession and it took excellent defensive work from Jake Pagan and Callum Tootle to keep the Kersal pack out. However, when AK were awarded a 5m scrum from a kick that Southport thought had been grounded after crossing the try line, a big shove from the home pack saw Southport rocked back and with the scrum collapsing, the awarding of a penalty try, to seal the victory. So, after a hard fought match, Southport found themselves on the end of a score line that did not reflect their performance, and AK knew that they had made the most of the opportunities gifted to them as they remain at the top of the table.