SUPERB SOUTHPORT QUACKED AT THE DEATH
Southport 15 Manchester Medics 20 by Mike 'Word' Smith
League leaders Manchester Medics were the visitors to Waterloo Rd last Saturday for a thrilling encounter played with intensity but in great spirit, which saw Medics triumph over Southport with the last play of the game.
Despite a heavy pitch and blustery conditions, Medics demonstrated a desire to play their brand of open rugby from the start, a style which has seen them lose only once all season, and every player regardless of position seemed comfortable on the ball. However Southport themselves showed their growth and development over recent matches, and a stout home defence prevented Medics crossing the line.
Buoyant by their defensive efforts, it was now Southport’s turn to take the game to the opposition and, playing with a strong wind, they camped in the Medics quarter. This pressure produced a series of penalties, and from one, scrum half Jake Mann saw the opportunity to tap and go and find Jamie Bailey on the crash. Bailey drew two men before offloading to an ever present Danny Booth in support, who crossed for the first score of the afternoon.
From the kick off Medics came straight back at ‘Port, and were immediately awarded a penalty in front of the sticks for holding on at the ruck, duly converted. However, back came Southport and immediately tested the Medics with penetrating runs, lead by the impressive Sam Cross, and Southport were themselves awarded a penalty for holding on at the ruck, converted by Mann.
Southport continued to take the game to Medics, with strong runs from Gareth Lang and captain George Baumber. However Medics continued to demonstrate their intent in possession despite the weather conditions. Spreading the ball wide, they found their second row in space on the right wing, and he broke several tackles before finding his centre on the inside in support to touch down and level the scores. Medics then took the lead seconds later when they recovered the ball from the kick off and again found their charging second row who needed no support this time to score under the posts and take an 8-15 half time lead.
As the teams turned round, Southport seemed to be very much up against it, with Medics not only leading but playing with an ever increasing wind. But Southport showed true character and met every attack from Medics, driving them back in defence, and putting together phase after phase in possession to take them deep into the Medics half, and even crossing the line, although hooker Calum Monaghan was deemed to have been held up over it. But Southport’s reward eventually came, when Mann set the team going forward with another quick tap at the penalty and again found Bailey as his willing runner. From the ensuing ruck, Mann saw the gap to dive over the line and ground the ball before converting his try again levelling the scores.
As the match passed into the final minutes, Medics displayed the drive that has kept them at the top of the table all season and camped in the Southport half. Southport continued to frustrate the Manchester team despite being pegged back and unable to kick out of their half playing into the prevailing wind. Just as it looked like Southport had ground out a deserved draw, Medics mustered one last attack. A crashing tackle on the Medics centre dislodged the ball; however a fortunate bounce of the ball back into his arms allowed Medics to recycle and spin the ball wide where a good finish from their right winger in the corner produced the winning score for Medics in the last play of the game. Final score Southport 15 Medics 20.
So it was another victory for Medics who demonstrated their desire to win to the end, and disappointment in the end for a valiant Southport side. However despite the result Southport must take heart for their performance and the character displayed, and use this as a springboard for the rest of the season, and next.
The level of the two successive home performance against the Medics and Bowdon has impressed everyone at the club and serves to show that the progress off the pitch is now being mirrored on it. With quality new players being attracted, and some fine prospects coming through the Colts, no one can now rest on their laurels and with this new found belief who would now not want to be part of something special.
One final note of thanks to sponsor Ged Clarke of Kinsella Clarke and his guests. There was very much a personal feel to the occasion with Geds
youngest son Marcus ably strutting his stuff at No.3 for the Medics. Marcus himself started out as a Southport RFC junior and it is great to see him now as a key player in the very impressive Medics side. They seem likely to win the league this season but one thing for sure is that this was one of the hardest games they've had, a measure of how good Southport were, and full credit to them for staying behind in the clubhouse after the game a tradition which is now being lost to the game. With sponsors like Ged and others bringing a real buzz to Saturday afternoons at Waterloo Road, perhaps we can bring this back and certainly more games of this quality and excitement will help the cause.