FIRSTS VIVA LOSS FOR VAGAS
Firsts score five tries to make it played 7 won 7 in the league this season with a hard fought bonus point victory against Manx visitors Vagabonds,
Mike Smith describes the action.....
From the off it was clear that both sides wanted to play rugby and make the most of the excellent Waterloo Rd pitch, and it was the home side that struck first. From an inch perfect lineout, Southport spread the ball wide, and with good support recycled well to release Chris Tees to fly down the right wing, only to be stopped just short of the Vagas try line. But the forwards were in support and up popped number 8 Josh Critchley to crash over for the opening try.
However, Southport committed the cardinal sin of failing to clear their lines from the restart, and after several mistakes found themselves on their own 5m line facing a Vagabonds scrum. A solid drive from the powerful front row gave a perfect platform for the Vagas’ burly 8 to pick up at the base and trundle over for a converted try and take the lead.
The game continued to ebb and flow as the half drew to an end, but it was Southport who were to have the last say. Struggling to break down the Southport defence, Vagabonds got caught short just inside their 22, when Calum Monaghan intercepted a pass at the ruck. Southport were quick to counter, and with scrum half Dave Atherton tied into the ruck, Jake McMullen stepped up to release the backs. With quick hands and great support from Gareth Lang and Joe Mawdsley, the ball was delivered to Jamie Bailey, who cut through three players before flinging out the ball to the left wing. There in support was Tom Peacock, who picked the ball up off his shoelaces and dived over in the corner for a classy finish to an excellent counter attack.
Southport started the second period brightly, penning Vagas in their own half, captain George Baumber leading the assault with a great charge down as the Manx fly half tried to clear his lines. The pressure on the Vagas line eventually told, and it was Sam Cross who being first to pounce on a lose Vagabonds pass, gathered and drove over the whitewash for ‘Port’s third try. But back came Vagabonds, and their powerful scrum again set up points when Southport were penalised for coming off the back of a driven scrum giving the visitors an easy 3 points to close the gap.
Minutes later, and a hopeful kick through from the Vagabonds fly half found Southport’s last man fumbling on his own line, and handing over possession. Despite Southport’s scrambled defence, Vagabonds kept possession well and eventually found a gap to cross the line, and with another successful conversion, took the lead with 20 minutes left. And Southport’s task became harder, when a short time later prop Tom Smith was sent to the ‘bin’ for joining the ruck from the side.
But Southport’s 14 men were not deterred and took the game to Vagabonds. Strong runs from Monahan and Dan Aindow, and patience in attack eventually provided an opportunity for Peacock to cross the line for his second try, grounding the ball with help from his team mates.
With the team restored to full numbers and Vagas tiring, Southport’s forwards now came to the fore, marshalled by Dan Whalen now reinstated at scrum half. A great catch and drive at the lineout sent the visitors back into their own half. Seeing a gap, hooker Monaghan broke from the back of the maul, and sprinted 40m only to be stopped a metre short. Seconds later, another powerful Cross drive saw him over the line, but this time held up. But the pressure eventually told. As the Southport forwards recycled ball time after time, Whalen saw the chance to attack down the blind side. He found Mawdsley, and the flanker showed deft hands to supply a marauding Bailey who picked a sublime line to get behind the Vagas defence and score in the corner to close out the match. Final score Southport 25 Vagabonds 17.