Orrell 8 Southport 11. Mike 'Scoop' Smith reports.....
Southport made the short trip down the M58 to Orrell last Saturday, and were cheered to victory by their faithful supporters, who braved the conditions to witness this close encounter.
After so much rain, the heavy pitch conditions were never going to lend themselves to open running rugby, and indeed for the first 10 minutes of the match, Southport were unable to get out of their own half. This allowed Orrell to take advantage of a kickable penalty awarded at the breakdown and a 3-0 lead.
From the restart, however, it was now Southport’s turn to camp in the opposition’s half. When Orrell did try and run the ball from their own half, a text-book tackle and jackal from the outstanding Danny Booth provided quick turnover ball for scrum half Joe Mawdsley to release Chris Tees, who backed himself, and was only halted on the try line were he was held up by the Orrell open-side flanker. Good work from the Southport pack, who had the upper hand on the Orrell scrum, allowed the Southport backs to show their attacking intent, and shortly later again attacked down the left wing, this time Tees finding Chris Drescher who looked certain to add to his scoring tally, only for another cover tackle by the Orrell open-side to stop him on the corner flag.
But Southport continued to peg Orrell back and from a penalty inside the 22 decided to kick for the corner. A catch and drive instigated by Josh Critchley and supported by the rest of the pack drove the Orrell forwards back over their own line for a Southport try, grounded by Booth.
However an altercation at the lineout at the stroke of half time resulted in a red card for Southport’s hooker Webb, and left Southport to question whether, despite their 3-5 lead, they were again to rue first half opportunities not taken.
This looked to be the case as the second half commenced, and Southport’s 14 men defence had to tackle for their lives. But tackle they did, led admirably by Booth who appeared to be everywhere around the field.
With the initial Orrell threat thwarted, and after some rearranging of personnel, Southport started themselves to look to threaten again, and excellent handling from Tees, who despite the wet conditions caught everything thrown his way, kept ‘Port in the Orrell half. Despite being one man short, the Southport forwards continued to dominate, now being ably marshalled by first team debutant Dave Atherton, deservedly promoted to the squad for his hard work this season. A driving maul powered by prop Tom Smith and supported by Dan Aindow and Craig Pacey again caused the Orrell forwards to join in from the side and from the resulting penalty, Jake McMullen extended Southport’s lead.
However, a rare sojourn into Southport territory shortly after allowed Orrell to make the most of the man advantage and find their right winger who ran in to score under the posts and level the scores. Incredulously, the Orrell kicker decided to take the conversion from outside the 22 and subsequently missed the easy extras.
With minutes to go, Southport continued to press. From a clearance kick, Southport’s right wing Phil Weston caught the high ball and powerfully ran at the Orrell defence, who were again penalised at the break down. This left a long and difficult kick on a muddy pitch for McMullen, who unperturbed, sweetly struck the ball between the sticks.
There was just time for one more Orrell assault on the Southport line, however the defence held strong, and a penalty for not releasing allowed Southport to clear their lines and hang on for a hard fought victory. Final score Orrell 8 Southport 11.
Captain George Baumber must surely be pleased with the character his side displayed particularly during the second half of this match. Baumber himself should receive plaudits for the way he led his men, as well as his own performance in this match, which included some exquisite handling skills, and footwork normally only demonstrated by performers on his favourite programme, Strictly Come Dancing.