TENSING ENCOUNTER SEES SUMMIT REACHED!
Mike 'Word' Smith reports from the touch-line on how the cream of Southport rose to top.
Moore were Southport’s visitors in last Saturday’s top of the table clash. With both teams boasting an undefeated start to the season, it was the Warrington side that eventually left theirs at Waterloo Rd after a close encounter.
Southport started the match brightly, with attacking runs from centres Chris Tees and Clarke Walton causing Moore to stray off side, and presenting Jake McMullen with an early opportunity for him to take the lead with a well struck penalty. Southport continued to press, and with Walton straightening the line, and the forwards linking well, they took play to the Moore 5m line, where they were again awarded a penalty for offside. This time, captain George Baumber chose a set scrum, and from a solid platform, number 8 Josh Critchley bounded through the scrambled defence to ground the ball, with McMullen adding the extras.
From the kick off, Southport were straight back on the offensive, switching the ball to allow a blistering run from Dylan Norbury on one wing, and then switching play for Phil Weston to attack on the opposite flank. Moore could only intervene by yet again straying offside and this time their outside centre was sent to the bin for persistence team offences, and McMullen again converted the penalty to stretch the Southport lead. Minutes later, McMullen added to his personal tally, converting this time from the Moore 10 m line.
With only 20 minutes on the clock, Southport had now raced to a 16-0 lead. The home side looked solid in defence, aided by powerful counter rucking from Gareth Lang and an excellent Baumber turnover, and dangerous in attack, and it was surely only time before the lead was extended. Moore themselves were struggling to hold on, yet again reduce to 14 men this time for their fly half not retreating at a Southport penalty. However, Southport lacked a clinical edge to their play and were guilty of not pressing home the advantage of an extra player and favourable wind, and as Moore hung on till the break, several sage home supporters questioned whether this would be a proverbial game of two halves.
In fact it only took a minute for Moore to reduce the deficit after the break, when awarded an early penalty for a high tackle which was successfully converted. Using the wind to great affect, they then camped inside the Southport half for the next 15 minutes, and this time it was Southport’s turn to transgress numerous times at the offside line before Jake Mann was shown a yellow card for one transgression too many. The Moore pressure eventually told, when after several piecing runs, the impressive Moore scrum half Johnson ran through several missed tackles to touch down under the posts and bring the visitors to within one score.
Moore continued to set up camp in the Southport half of the field, and Southport struggled to release the pressure, even despite a trade-mark mercurial run from substitute Ste Hunter. With only 5 minutes remaining, Moore’s hard work looked to have stolen the show, when Moore’s Johnson pounced on a lose ball and found space on the right wing, dancing past several would be tacklers to score his second try of the afternoon. Crucially the placed kick 15m in from the right touchline was missed and left Southport clinging on to a one point lead.
From the restart, Southport continued to heap pressure on themselves when the kick was put straight into touch. However, the resulting scrum provided the defining moment of the match. In what some would later claim was a pre planned move from the training paddock, Southport stole the ball at the scrum, and from the base, off set Critchley to dance through the bewildered Moore defence and score an excellent solo effort and seal the match at the death.
So despite a less than convincing display, Southport showed their ability to still get across the finishing line in front, and will undoubtedly learn from the experience. Final score Southport 23 Moore 15.
For good measure here's the Moore report too. Very fair.
Top of the table Moore travelled away to Southport. A fixture that has been particularly tricky in recent history. The game was very much a game of too halves due to the strong winds at the coastal location. The first half, the wind was with the home team and early pressure of the larger pack told with Moore unable to have much of the ball in the opposition's half. Two early penalties were duly slotted over by Southport. An early injury to Foulstone meant a reshuffle in the pack with Riley coming on. It continued to be a dogged defensive effort by Moore, however, Southport did manage to cross the white wash, plus slotting the extras. Moore's discipline did cost with two sin bins, resulting in another three points. Injury to Riley meant that stand off Taylor went into the pack at eight. Half time score 16-0 to the home team.
Knowing the wind was going to be with Moore in the 2nd half, the boot of Johnston gave them the field position the team craved. Excellent running from Taylor, Holland and Ferguson and ball retention from the rest of the pack gave the platform the back line craved. Sustained pressure gave Moore their first points from a penalty from the boot of Johnson. From this point it seemed the that Southport would also struggle with the conditions and be forced into trying to run the ball as kicking was just handing the ball back to Moore. An excellent move that started with forwards ended with Johnston rolling over the Southport defense to score and his boot to add the extras.
Continued pressure from Moore saw them back down in the Southport half with great ball retention. This saw the Moore fly half fend of numerous players, heading towards the touchline and running out of space, but then came an outrageous dummy that can only be described as pure class, this created the gap to see Johnston go over for his brace.
With the conversion missed, Southport lead 16-15 with only a few minutes left. With a very near to last play, Southport kicked the ball directly into touch from the kick off resulting in a 'scrum back', Moore lost the scrum against the head and the southport eight picked and managed to avoid the tackles and go fifty metres and score. With the extras, Moore lost the loosing bonus point, their effort for sure deserved. Final score 23-15. Johnston Mom for scoring the brace of tries. Moore move onto a home fixture against a top four team of last year Ormskirk to hopefully further show the progress made this year.