Port Sunlight 13 Southport 33 by Mike ‘Word’ Smith, who modestly omits his efforts as one of the three Smiths who propped for the team along with Ian and Tom.
Southport made the trip ‘over the water’ to Port Sunlight last Saturday, and came home with the spoils and a bonus point win.
Southport were quick out of the blocks from the start and took the game straight to Sunlight, with their backs looking to test the opposition at every opportunity. An early run from Phil Weston set Chris Tees up to chip the ball into the Sunlight 22 and force the fullback into touch. From the ensuing lineout, a slick move saw a galloping George Baumber cross the line; however, unable to confirm the grounding, the referee awarded Southport a 5m scrum. This presented the opportunity for number 8 Mike Dale to launch an attack off the scrum and take three defenders with him over the line to score the opening try, converted by Jake McMullen.
The Southport pack were clearly dominating the bigger Sunlight forwards, and captain Baumber chose to drive this advantage home, opting to kick for the corner rather than take points on offer. This brave tactic paid dividends when from a lineout inside the Port Sunlight 22, a catch and drive sucked in the home side’s defence and with good vision, Danny Booth saw the opportunity to slip off the back of the maul, go blind and dive in at the corner. Despite the heavy pitch conditions, McMullen clearly had his kicking boots on as he slotted the ball home from the touch line for the extras.
For their own part, Sunlight offered little in response, although a rare venture into Southport’s half presented a long range penalty opportunity that was gratefully take. However, with five minutes left in the half, Port Sunlight suddenly started to show. Camped on Southport’s line, they were held up twice over it before finally breaking it, after spreading the ball wide from a 5m scrum for the right winger to score on the stroke of half time; Port Sunlight 8 Southport 14.
As the teams turned around, buoyant from their try, it was now Port Sunlight’s turn to take the game to the opposition and their pack started to put the pressure on, driving from the back of rucks and making the weight advantage tell in the scrums. For a sustained period Port Sunlight had Southport pinned to their own try line, with a series of scrums and penalties, but Southport were resilient and held out until with an audible sigh of relieve McMullen was able to get ‘Port out of their own 22. Southport immediately turned defence into attack with a piercing run by substitute Clarke Walton, and from the breakdown, Josh Critchley showed the pace of a winger to break free and score under the sticks, turning the tide of the game.
Now Southport were in domination, creating attacking opportunities, and any ball that Sunlight had being snuffed out with some great cover tackling from Phil Weston. With expansive play from the Southport backs, the bonus point try soon came, in what was the move of the match. Quick ball from Joe Mawdsley allowed McMullen to feed Walton who found Tom Peacock on the charge. Peacock drew the defence and then supplied Tees back on the inside who chose a sublime line that took him beyond the Sunlight defence and a run in for an excellent try.
With the game in the bag, Southport continued to play open rugby and there was time for Chris Drescher to make his weekly catch and run in to the corner to increase his try scoring tally. Sunlight to their credit soldiered to the end and a consolation try was awarded to their prop right at the death. However this did not mar an excellent performance from Southport who showed class in every area and were even able to introduce youth and agility from the bench to cap a comprehensive away win.