Southport travelled away for the last time this season to face a Prenton side fighting to stay in the division. Mike Smith reports.
With several injuries and unavailability, Southport displayed a new starting back line sporting twins and a father and son pairing. However, despite the changes, Southport still executed their exciting brand of open rugby that saw them score six unanswered tries in the first period to put the game to bed by half time.
The first try came with five minutes on the clock and a Southport scrum inside their own half. Despite pressure from the heavier Prenton scrum, number 8 Josh Critchley picked and went blind, outpacing the opposition only to be caught just short by the Prenton fullback. With Danny Booth in support, Southport quickly recycled and simple hands saw centre Jamie Bailey in space for an easy run in. A short time later Southport were again on the attack with a lineout throw in the Prenton 22. A great catch and drive saw the pack stopped a metre short, and a couple of ‘pick and go’s gave the chance for Booth to cross for Southport’s second.
Booth was heavily involved in the next try when he received the ball from the kick off and ran through the defence to take the action deep into Prenton territory, before the ball was spread wide via the hands of Bailey junior and senior to Dylan Norbury for the winger to finish well in the corner. And not wanting to be outdone by his fellow back rower, from the resulting kick off this time it was Lewis Caldwell who collected the ball and targeted the Prenton fly half, finding the gap and getting behind the defence. The forwards recycled well, and some deft hands from prop Tom Smith worked the ball to Dan Cresswell on the outside and he powered through his opposite number to score another well worked try.
With twenty minutes gone, Prenton started to use the power of their pack more effectively and had a sustained period of pressure on the Southport try line. However Southport showed great line speed in defence and a massive hit by Gareth Lang on Prenton’s burly blindside flanker sent Prenton back and caused the fly half to throw a wild pass out to his left. The loose ball was pounced on by Norbury, who sprinted the length of the field to score under the posts. The last try of the half came after Southport had patiently worked their way up the field but spilled the ball at the last. However, as Prenton looked to clear their lines, captain George Baumber demonstrated vision that belies his years and picked the ball out of the air like taking sweets from a baby (something at which he is also adept) to cross for an excellent intercept try to close the half, converted by Jake McMullen. Half time: Prenton 0 Southport 36.
Southport started the second half as they did the first, putting together several good phases of play before hooker Calum Monaghan was able to finish things off with a try in the corner, well converted by McMullen. However Prenton then had a good spell and to their credit took the game to Southport through their big pack, scoring a converted try under the posts. But there was no stopping Southport with ball in hand, and the next try was created after slick hands from Dan Cresswell found his brother Ben, before excellent rucking from the forwards again provided good ball for halfbacks Jake Mann and Jake McMullen to find Dan Cresswell to finish off the move.
Prenton continued to toil with the forwards providing the power that eventually created an opportunity for their tank of a prop to cross the whitewash for their second converted try. And Southport were reduced to 14 men a short time later when Joe Mawdsley took the fall for one too many team offences at the ruck. However Southport were in the mood to score from anywhere on the park and their final try came courtesy of some excellent footwork from Norbury inside his 22. He stepped in and out of several players before accelerating off, finding Mann in support, and he in turn drew the last man and fed the supporting Critchley who crossed for Southport’s ninth try.
Despite the game being well over as a contest, Prenton kept on toiling and a good break from their scrum half gave them a third try. Seeing the opportunity to score a fourth and take the bonus point they so desperately need to assist in their relegation battle, Prenton threw everything at the visitors and were rewarded with another forwards try on the last play of the game. But overall it was a comfortable win for the visitors who in patches were unplayable and their style of play brought plaudits from home supporter and officials alike. Final score Prenton 26 Southport 55.