FIRSTS STRUGGLE TO WORK OUT LAYBY BOYS*
Mike Smith waxes lyrical as Southport maintain winning momentum but rue chance to secure four try bonus point.
Southport produced a laboured performance against a determined Orrell side last Saturday and the Waterloo Rd faithful had to wait until the dying minutes of the game before victory was assured.
Southport started brightly, and from the outset the forwards ensured that they would have more than their fair share of possession, with Dan Aindow in particular exerting pressure on his opposite number and with the support of Jamie Church in the second row driving back every Orrell scrum. With good ball, there were several piercing runs from Josh Critchley and Chris Tees, testing the Orrell defence and created gaps. However, Southport were guilty of not finishing chances, and uncharacteristic handling errors prevented them turning several good opportunities into tries. For their own part, Orrell were keen to keep the game tight, and relied on an organised defence and the booming boot of their inside centre to clear their lines.
However, with the first half drawing to a close, the Orrell centre was asked to take a ten minute rest by the referee after having being drawn into a cynical tackle on Liam Webb from a quickly taken tap penalty. And from another tap and go shortly after, the forwards recycled well. Wth the Orrell defence in retreat, scrum half Jake Mann saw the space and put in a clever chip to the right corner for fullback Tom Peacock to chase on to. With his opposite number in pursuit, Peacock showed his footballing skills to kick through and regained the ball over the line for a well finished try. So, having spent most of the first half in Orrell territory, Southport only had a 5-0 half time lead to show for their efforts.
As the teams turned around, Southport were guilty of giving territory to Orrell with too many avoidable penalties conceded, and from one such penalty, Orrell’s centre, now returned to the pitch, converted from long range to reduce the Southport lead. In response, Southport immediately camped in the Orrell half, and having managed to put together several phases of play, Orrell could only respond by trying to slow down play at the ruck and giving Jake McMullen an easy penalty to restore the 5 point lead. But again, Southport failed to push on, and with less than 10 minutes remaining, were reduced to 14 men when Webb was sent to the bin.
However, this seemed to galvanise the 14 men of Southport, and they immediately lifted their game as one, heaping pressure on the Orrell line, and rushing at the Orrell attack. This forced an error as a great charge down provided quick ball for replacement scrum half Dan Whalen to feed to his supporting forwards. Captain George Baumber led the charge, and when he was stopped yards short, up popped Gareth Lang, choosing an unstoppable line to crash over and score Southport’s second try.
And within a minute, the win was conformed, with Southport putting together their best spell of the game, spreading the ball wide to Chris Dresher, returning on the wing, and forwards and backs linking well. This produced a gap for a bewildered Baumber to charge through, crossing the line, and with his team mates shouting to remind him what to do next, grounded the ball to score the final try of the contest, converted by McMullen.
So Southport triumphed in the end, although were clearly disappointed to have not gained a bonus point win. But this in itself shows the progression that this young side has made, and will undoubtedly drive the squad on for the future.
* for the uninitiated In 1972 -73 Orrell qualified to take part in the RFU National Knockout Competition. In the second round they defeated the famous Harlequins and received wide press coverage, prompting the famous quote 'beaten by a lay-by off the M6!' The club has been on a roller coaster ride since and despite having fallen on hard times it is terrific to it fighting back and with impressive support like it brought to Waterloo Road yesterday there is every chance it can become a force again.