Southport signed off their league campaign of 2013 with a 7 try win last Saturday against visitors Ramsay from the Isle of Man by Mike 'Word' Smith
Playing into a strong wind in the first half, Southport set out their intention to dominate up front from the start. This immediately paid dividends when with only 5 minutes on the clock, a powerful Southport scrum on their own 22 allowed scrum half Dave Atherton to find fly half debutant Dan Whalen who supplied left winger Chris Drescher on the burst. Drescher found the gap and stepped in and out of the Ramsay defence before racing 70m to score a superb try in the corner.
From the restart, Southport immediately gifted Ramsay a reply. Trying to play open rugby, ‘Port were guilt of shovelling poor ball, and a reckless pass more akin to the American football field gave an easy intercept and early Christmas present to Ramsay’s inside centre, who scored under the posts to take the lead.
However Southport were determined to get a grip of this encounter, and when the powerful front row of Tom and Ian Smith and Rei Chambers drove the Ramsay pack off their own ball, Sam Cross, playing at no 8, was quick to run at the Ramsay centres, drawing the defence and allowing man of the match Josh Critchley to again demonstrate his pace as he outran the Ramsay backs to score Southport’s second try.
Ramsay tried to use the conditions to their advantage, however Southport’s full back Tom Peacock was outstanding under every high ball. From one such clearance, Peacock’s counter attacking run set up Ben Creswell, who shipped the ball to an advancing Danny Booth. Booth broke the first tackle and then drew his man to give right winger Phil Weston a run in to score in the corner, well converted by Atherton.
Southport’s bonus point try came late in the first half having withstood a concerted amount of Ramsay pressure on the Southport try line, and ‘Port coming close to losing a man to the ‘bin’ for repeated offences. But ‘Port held out and from a relieving penalty awarded in their 22 for a Ramsay player not releasing, Booth decided to tap and go and find captain George Baumber. Realising it was a long way to the opposition’s try line, Baumber wisely found Drescher on his outside and the flying winger raced in for his second 70m try of the match.
Half time: Southport 22 Ramsay 7.
As the teams turned around, Southport continued to press forward, now using the worsening weather conditions to their advantage. The conditions, coupled with the fact that Southport were by now winning every ball at scrum time regardless of who put the ball in, meant that it would be all one way traffic. Using the hanging wind, a long clearance kick from Whalen was followed up with a great chase from Weston and Cross, who seemed to be revelling in the freedom of playing in the back row. This pressure caused the Ramsay full back to spill the ball, and after quick recycling, up popped Chris 'mas' Tees to cross the line and score a converted try to extend the lead.
Ringing the changes, Southport now introduced substitutes Dan Cresswell, Will Scott-Abbott and hooker Calum Monaghan, whose fine cameo performance bagged him two tries, although not quite from the same strike range as Dresher. Monaghan’s first try came from the back of a great catch and drive at the lineout, after Baumber had elected to put his team in the corner from a penalty for offside. As the pack marched forward, Monaghan slipped of the back to go blind and make the 1m dash over the try line. His second try five minutes later was from a marginally shorter distance. With the forwards stopped on Ramsay’s try line, Monaghan saw the opportunity to pick up from the back of the ruck and dive over to score the final try of the encounter.
Final score Southport 41 Ramsay 7.
So Southport finish this year’s league matches with another comprehensive victory, matching the tally for league wins with the whole of last season. Despite several players being unavailable for this game, Southport showed that they have strength and depth in all areas, and there will surely be some competition for selection in the coming weeks.