The sign of a good team is the ability to ‘win ugly’ according to Mike Smith, and he should know.....
Last Saturday’s encounter with Moore was not the spectacle that simultaneously England and New Zealand were presenting on the club house big screen; however Southport showed their ability to grind out a victory and triumphed in this low scoring match.
From the first scrum, it was apparent that the Southport eight would have the upper hand at the set plays. Several times Moore were driven back at a rate of knots, lead by the front row of Jamie Church, Rei Chambers and Tom Smith, and this provided scrum half Dave Atherton, enjoying his first start for the senior team, to supply his backs with quick turnover ball. With plenty of possession, Southport’s outside half Danny Banks created chances for himself and his team. From a scrum on the half way line, a clever show-and-go from Banks saw him past the gain line, and a kick and chase was collected by centre Ollie Brown on the Moore try line, where he was stopped by the covering Moore defence. Chances were also created for Southport wingers Chris Drescher and Phil Weston, but each time the Moore defence, and the touch line, prevented an opening Southport score. Despite having a lack of set piece ball, Moore’s defence was stout and their commitment to the tackle and ruck saw them turn over possession and strip the ball on several occasions, and this kept the match very much in the balance.
Although Moore’s defensive display was committed, they had less to offer in attack, preferring instead to use the boot of several of their backs and launch the ball up the field. However, late in the first half, a rare visit into Southport territory provided Moore with successive penalties which they chose to kick, the second landed from long range by the Moore outside half, Lewis Johnston, giving the visitors a 0-3 lead at half time.
Despite a chance to regroup, the match continued in the same vein in the second half, with Southport at times camped on the Moore line, but unable to break down the Moore defence. This was not without the want of trying, with a rejuvenated Mike Dale continuing his good form, supported by Josh Critchley in the back row. However, despite the pressure, ‘Port couldn't take the last few steps to cross the whitewash, and this was epitomised by a 5 metre scrum driven to a metre from the line only for number 8 Gareth Lang to be stopped by the Moore back row.
With 8 minutes to go, Moore were able to relieve the pressure from their own line with a penalty kick taking them over the half way line, and from a catch and drive at the lineout, they drove towards the Southport 22 and prepared for a rare assault on the opposition’s try line. But excellent work from captain George Baumber saw him rip the ball from the Moore forwards and feed the ball back to Southport’s full back, Jake McMullen, who himself launched a relieving kick for Moore’s outside half, now playing at full back, to recover. The kick was followed up by an excellent chase by Banks and Drescher, and this pressure forced the Moore full back to miss touch and find an advancing Brown. Instead of running the ball back, Brown placed an inch perfect kick over the head of the Moore full back, and chased down his kick like a silver fox to score in the corner. McMullen added the extras from wide out to put the game out of reach. Final score Southport 7 Moore 3.
Despite several decisions not going their way in this match, Southport maintained an excellent disciplined approach throughout, highlighted by an almost priest like performance from the stag Gareth Lang, and this composure saw them triumph in a deserved win.