SOUTHPORT PULL NO PUNCHES AS OSWESTRY OUSTED
Southport 32 Oswestry 21 by Mike Smith
Southport entertained visitors Oswestry last Saturday, and in a repeat of their encounter earlier in the season this was another game of the proverbial two halves, with Southport rampant in the first and allowing Oswestry back in the second. However, this time Southport had produced more than enough in the first period to ensure the victory despite taking their foot off the pedal.
From the kick off, Oswestry tried to stamp their mark on proceedings, with their heavy forwards looking to keep play tight. But Southport’s defence was stout from the start and quickly stole the ball at the breakdown, spreading the ball wide and drawing the Oswestry defence offside. With a penalty awarded in front of the sticks, scrum half Jake Mann instead had the vision to tap and find a bounding Matty Astwood who crashed over for the opening try, duly converted by Jake Mann.
Minutes later and another mistake by Oswestry, this time a spilled pass in the centres, gave Chris Tees the opportunity to kick through and chase his kick over the try line. Unfortunately for Tees, the referee was unable to confirm the grounding, and without the benefit of a TMO, instead awarded a 5m scrum to Southport. This presented the chance for number 8 Josh Critchley to launch an attack at the Oswestry line, and from quick recycling, Danny Banks found Astwood in the centres to score his second try within ten minutes of the start.
Oswestry did have some possession as the game unfolded, however Southport’s defence was outstanding and their counter attacking, including deft hands from captain George Baumber, showed their desire to play on the front foot and take the game to Oswestry. This was epitomised when Southport were awarded a penalty on the Oswestry 22 after stealing the ball at an Oswestry scrum. Banks saw the space and took a quick tap to dance through the bewildered Oswestry defence and score a great solo effort, again converted by Mann.
The pressure Southport were exerting in defence was causing Oswestry to continue to make mistakes in possession, and a short time later an errant pass in the Oswestry midfield was again kicked through, and the ensuing foot chase was won by centre Jamie Bailey who grounded the ball for Southport’s bonus point fourth try.
Southport were now cruising, and in possession were able to spread the ball wide. This provided an opportunity for winger Phil Weston who ran at the Oswestry defence before cutting inside and offloading just short of the try line. The ball was again recycled and spread wide where man of the match Astwood was again looking for work in the centres and he ran in his third and Southport’s fifth try of a dominant half of rugby, and a 29-0 half time lead.
Oswestry now had an ever increasing wind to their advantage in the second half, however their first score was more route one, with Southport seemingly asleep allowing Oswestry’s burly centre to break through and off load for a converted try. Oswestry continued to kick well for territory and nearly scored a second try minutes later, only to be thwarted by an outstanding try-saving tap tackle from Weston. However a second try did follow soon after from the Oswestry forwards following a series of pick and drives. Oswestry were using the conditions well, and another long kick pushed Southport back into their 22. A steal at the resulting lineout allowed Oswestry’s Welsh centre to take three players with him over the line for a third converted try, closing the gap to 8 points.
However this seemed to be the wakeup call that Southport needed. With captain Baumber now returned to the pitch after an earlier knock, Southport played the remainder of the game in the opposition’s half and never really gave Oswestry a chance to create any further scoring opportunities. A late Mann penalty kick sealed the victory and ensured that despite letting Oswestry back in, Southport took the spoils based on their dominant first half performance.