Southport 29 Bowdon 21. Report by Mike 'Word' Smith SIMPLY THE BEST!
Southport welcomed promotion chasing Bowdon to Waterloo Rd last Saturday, and not only secured a bonus point win, but produced as fine a performance as been seen for many a year.
It was in fact Bowdon that started the brighter, and for the first fifteen minutes Southport struggled to get out of their own half with Bowdon showing their intent to play an expansive game. However the Southport defence held strong and this was epitomised by a Bowdon maul on the Southport line that was driven back at such a rate that the Southport backs were able to get into their oppositions faces and turn over ball, allowing outside half Danny Banks to clear the lines. Good pressure from the chase resulted in the Bowdon right winger gifting a pass to a grateful Chris Tees, who seized on the opportunity and ran 50m to score under the posts, while the disbelieving Bowdon backs looked on.
Bowdon responded well, and following a powerful run from their right winger, the play was switched, releasing the burly Bowdon backs. A fortunate bounce from a stray pass landed into the arms of Bowdon’s outside centre and he was able to run in and level the scores.
But Southport were not rattled by the score, and with debutant scrum half Jake Mann confidently linking forwards and backs, Banks was provided with excellent ball allowing him to run at the Bowdon defence. From quickly recycled ball, centre James Bailey danced in and out to be stopped on the try line, only for him to find hooker Calum Monaghan in support to score a second Southport try of the afternoon.
Southport continued to press, and a penalty at the end of the half awarded when Bowdon were caught offside at the ruck provided an easy 3 points for Mann and a 15 – 7 half time lead.
The sides turned round with Southport in confident mood; however it was Bowdon who scored first. Despite Bowdon having much the heavier pack, Southport’s front row of Tom Smith, Jamie Church and Monaghan, supported by Sam Cross and captain George Baumber in the second row, had them going backwards all afternoon. However, minutes into the second half, ‘Port were adjudged to have driven early at the scrum and from the penalty, Bowdon attacked with a quick tap that set their backs off at the Southport line, and a kick and chase was gathered to score and move within a point of the home side.
A short time later, and following a missed Southport penalty kick at goal, Bowdon were awarded their own penalty and a chance to take the lead. However the kick went wide, and from the following 22 drop out Southport produced the move of the match, firstly with penetrating runs from Tom Peacock and replacement number 8 Josh Critchley, and then great hands from the ‘Port backs setting up winger Connor Wilson to race into the corner. A high tackle in the process of grounding the ball prevented Wilson from scoring on his debut, however the referee was on the spot to award Southport a penalty try.
Bowdon were clearly rattled, and this spilled into their game when a short time later their second row was sin binned for a punch on a Southport player. For their own part, Southport stuck to the task in hand and in particular the back row of Joe Mawdsley, Gareth Lang, Danny Booth and Critchley were everywhere around the pitch, recycling ball and heaping on the pressure in defence. This enabled Southport to put together several phases of play, and allowed Mann to find Bailey who ran a superb line to get behind the Bowdon defence and score the decisive fourth try of the contest.
With the game in its closing stages, there were opportunities for both sides, with Bowdon crossing Southport’s try line, but the dead ball line as well, and Southport going the length from the resulting 22 drop out only for Bailey to have deemed to have made a double movement in grounding the ball. Bowdon did score a consolation try in the last play of the game, however by this time Southport had the game comfortably in the bag, and the try didn’t detract from an excellent win for Southport and a dent into Bowdon’s promotion hopes.
In the final analysis this simply was a superb all round performance by the First team, most of whom are aged twenty or under and products of the Junior set-up, with Chairman Andrew Carney commenting afterwards that it was the best game that Southport 1st XV has played since the early 80’s. Praise indeed, and thoroughly merited.
DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT ANGUS'S MATCH PHOTOS TOO!