GREAT SCOTT! HASTINGS WITNESSES EPIC BATTLE.
George Baumber reports on the return to the home comforts of Waterloo Road after the disappointment of a limp and lame performance away at Dukinfield last week.
Coach Bill Nichol had challenged the squad to live up to expectations and perform much better for the visiting league leaders Liverpool Collegiate. With the on looking Scottish great Scott Hastings in attendance and the Waterloo Road faithful in fine voice both teams put on a pulsating and intense performance that shows how hard teams are going to have to play to come out on top of this league this season.
The start of the game however was all Southport. The back row of Lang, Mawdsley and Critchley were re united and combined with the rush defence from the Port backs Collegiate were struggling to settle into their patterns of play and eventually the pressure told with a Southport lineout executed well releasing the backs with the power and pace of the more and more impressive Jamie Bailey proving too much for Collegiate and he scored a try which was converted by safe boots McMullen.
This was followed by more pressure by Southport but then the visitors clicked into action and showed exactly why they have scored so many points this year. A lineout in their own 22 was shipped wide to their left winger with two long passes and he managed to side step young Dylan Norbury and then slalom towards the Southport try line. Fortunately both Norbury and Bailey had enough pace to get back and make a fine tackle. This was the first of many thrusts by the Collegiate wingers who were a constant thorn in the Southport side throughout the entire contest. It was now Southport who were under great pressure and couldn’t clear their lines or when they did a silly penalty would be conceded and the pressure released. Collegiate took advantage of this with a kick in front of the posts.
This was followed by a try for the away side, which was well executed. The forwards keeping the ball for a number of phases just short of the try line on the left side of the pitch before good hands across the full width of the pitch gave the right winger a glimmer of hope to score as Chris Tees appeared to have the situation in hand but a fantastic dive and stretch to ground the ball showed tremendous awareness and ability.
The half time whistle sounded and Collegiate held the narrowest of leads 8-7.
The second half didn’t start much better. The brave and hard running Tom Peacock made his only wrong decision of the day by running a very long kick into the Southport 22. He was isolated due to a good Collegiate chase and the 3 points increased the Collegiate lead. A further penalty by the Liverpool Collegiate captain proved to be a turning point in the game. His kick went wide and both touch judges indicated and called the ball was out. Returning Fly half Danny Banks jogged gently towards the 22 for the drop out but the referee hadn’t heard the call and allowed two burly Collegiate forwards to ground Banks. The ensuing scramble fired up Southport and from that point forward the game flowed from end to end as both teams searched for a score that could settle the contest.
Southport would make breaks with fine runs from Bailey punching holes in the middle of the pitch time and time again or Cross marauding forward requiring several opposition forwards to stop him progressing. Critchley was unfortunate to be stopped by the Collegiate right wing after an excellent 40 yard run and you could have expected the Southport team might start to think they had blown the game.
Go to man for the season Jamie Bailey again proved his value to the team breaking free of the inside centre and Collegiate fly half to take the score to 12 – 11. Scott Hastings who knows a thing or two about rugby as the most capped Scottish centre and 12 times capped Lions tourist told all at the gentlemans dinner later in the evening that the try was a finer try as would be seen at any level of the game.
The score was not converted so the match was set up for a frantic 8 minutes. Southport in fact tried to increase the lead with all three substitutes proving the strength and depth of the current squad. Colin Fearns burst down the blind side offloaded to the supporting prop Smith who was felled just short of the Collegiate try line. And still there was more drama. Long punts down field by Collegiate left Southport with a lineout just outside their own 22. Knowing it was the last play all Southport needed to do was win the ball and kick it out but Collegiate wouldn’t give up. They didn’t win the ball but it disrupted the Port forwards enough and the ball was on the floor. Both sides dived at it but Collegiate recycled the ball. The scrum half found Captain Lloyd approximately 10 metres in and 35 metres from the posts. He caught the ball as sweetly as he’d have hoped for and the Southport shoulder drooped in anticipation of a hard fought defeat. The wind had been blowing across the pitch all game and one final gush proved the difference between the sides as the kick sailed 2 foot wide of the left post.
The whistle was blown and all were in agreement a more nail biting finish hasn’t been seen in recent years. Either team could of won and I’m sure there will be many more games like this for both teams this season.
Man of the Match was Jamie Bailey and whilst he deserved the accolades special praise should be given to both Chris Tees who had to call upon his experience to marshal one exciting winger and Dylan Norbury, 17 years old and only 10 games into his first team career who had an equally hard task and showed his great potential by stifling his opposition winger so well throughout the game.
A trip away to Oswestry in two weeks will be another stern test for Southport as they now occupy top spot in the league and are formidable at their own ground. it doesn't get any easier!