1s TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT WHERE EAGLES LAIR
For the second match in a row Southport faced top-of-the table opponents, and for the second time in a row came away with a one point victory.
Mike Smith was on bird watch duty......
Southport made the long trip to Oswestry to face a powerful Eagles side on their home turf; however it was the visitors that started the stronger. From an early Oswestry scrum, a fumble allowed Southport quick turn-over ball, and they immediately looked to spread the ball wide, with hooker Liam Webb providing the link between forwards and backs. The ball was shipped to Chris Tees who hugged the touchline, and made good yards. Looking to offload in the tackle, it was Webb who was first there in support and he kicked through to heap pressure on the Oswestry fullback in his own 22, and with Jamie Bailey in support, shepherded him into touch. From the resulting lineout, great recycling from the forwards allowed centre Jake McMullen to find the gap and crash over in the corner for the opening score. Despite the heavy pitch conditions, McMullen then converted his own try from the touchline for the perfect Southport start.
And from the restart, Southport again recycled well, and with Danny Banks commanding his back line, again found space and took the ball into the Oswestry 22. Winning another attacking lineout, this time the ball was thrown long and found Oswestry hands. Choosing to run the ball, the Oswestry back row not only ran it out of their own half, but through the disorganised Southport defence for the Oswestry open side flanker to score in the opposite corner of the pitch.
Despite missing the conversion, Oswestry were clearly buoyant by the score, and proceeded to take the game back into Southport territory from the restart. The burly Oswestry front row continued to exert pressure on their opposite numbers and at a Southport scrum turned the scrum 90 and gave Oswestry possession. From their own solid platform, Oswestry recycled well and this provided the gap for their impressive outside centre to cross the whitewash and take the lead.
Southport for their part looked dangerous in attack, Dylan Norbury finding space with ball in hand. However they were guilty of forcing the issue too many times and not taking opportunities when they arose. But their expansive game did force Oswestry to try and slow the game, and a penalty for not releasing the tackler allowed McMullen to level the scores. However from the restart Southport again failed to clear their lines and Oswestry pounced on the loose ball. Quick hands from captain Andrew Smith at hooker put in his open side for his second try of the contest. Crucially for Southport the conversion was missed, as was a late penalty attempt, and Southport turned round 15 – 10 down and still very much in the game.
At the start of the second half, Southport immediately took the game to Oswestry, epitomised by a big hit from replacement Colin Fearns from the kick off, and camped in the Oswestry half for long periods, attacking the Oswestry line but struggling to cross it. However Oswestry were penalised for not releasing at the ruck allowing McMullen to add to his personal tally and draw within two points. As the game drew on, the pattern seemed to be set, with Oswestry struggling to get out of their own half, and Southport running the ball back at every opportunity, but unable to penetrate the stout defence. But Southport were determined to keep the pressure on the home side, with a charging Sam Cross being released after great hands from a fielded kick by Jamie Church. And the pressure did eventually tell, when Oswestry were again penalised at the ruck, allowing McMullen to coolly slot over from wide out to regain the lead. With Oswestry then reduced to 14 men after the captain was sin binned, Southport managed to play out the remaining minutes in their opponents half and come away with a hard fought victory.
Final score Oswestry 15 McMullen 16.