FOR PETES SAKE
The brilliant Mike Smith files his last match report for the season capturing the Firsts and the crowd paying their respects in the best possible way.
Southport took to the field for the last time this season to play visitors Port Sunlight, and put on a dazzling display in the April sunshine in front of a large crowd at Waterloo Rd.
There was an emotional start to the day as firstly George Baumber led his team out for the final time before hanging up his captain’s armband, and then the two teams, patrons and supporters observed a minute’s silence for former club chairman, player and friend to all, Peter Rostron, who sadly passed away last week.
As the game got underway, Southport immediately showed their intention to enjoy the occasion by playing their exciting brand of rugby and took the lead after only two minutes. A solid scrum gave the perfect platform for scrum half Jake Mann and outside half Danny Banks to combine well to put Jamie Bailey in the gap. The centre sprinted 50m to touch down in the ‘Ruck and Maul’ corner, well converted by Jake McMullen. McMullen was involved in the second try a short while later when he turned the ball over well in a ruck on the halfway line. Quick hands and some slick passes from Baumber and Joe Mawdsley set Mann free, and despite the screams from supporting Chris Dresher on his outside, the scrum half pinned his ears back and outpaced the defence to the corner.
Another turnover ball followed shortly after, and this time back rower Danny Booth put Southport on the front foot, breaking the gain line before the ball again found Mann in space. This time, being unable to shake off the Sunlight outside centre, Mann found Drescher running a great line inside, and the winger’s pace took him past the defence and over the try line.
The next try involved hands from almost every Southport player and saw several phases of play with two bulldozing runs from props Tom Smith and Dan Aindow before Ben Cresswell dummied the last man and finished in the corner. And one more followed before half time which belonged to the forwards, after the front five turned over the ball in the scrum. Josh Critchley picked from the base and taking several Sunlight players with him found Gareth Lang in support before Mann provided the link to feed Booth and he took several players with him over the line for a 29-0 half time lead.
With the teams turned around, it was more of the same from Southport with the forwards working well around the rucks, now augmented by the pace of replacement Lewis Caldwell. From the back of one ruck, Lang picked a great line inside, and the ball was eventually worked out to the right wing where hooker Calum Monaghan was there to finish off in the corner. Now Southport were keen to attack from all areas, so when a relieving Port Sunlight kick landed in the hands of Critchley, the number 8 ran the ball back with interest, before a lovely side step from prop Aindow allowed winger Cresswell to do the same before running in under the sticks. Not wanting to be outdone, Bailey scored the next try after Southport seemed to have lost the ball in midfield. Collecting the loose ball, the centre danced in and around the defence before putting on the gas and powering through to score under the uprights.
Port Sunlight tried valiantly to score with their powerful pack, and earned a 5m scrum. However they were adjudged to have driven early at the scrum and from the resulting free kick, Booth took the play up to the 22m line before play was spread wide to Bailey. He ate up the yards before finding McMullen on his inside, and he in turn found winger Drescher who had made a great run inside in support and was rewarded with finishing off the move under the posts. With Rob White now plying his trade in the front row, Southport added two more tries in quick succession. The first came courtesy of another counter attack from deep in Southport territory, where good movement from fullback Tom Peacock saw a gap open up for number 8 Critchley to collect the ball before finding the gap to sprint 70m unhindered by the Sunlight defence to cross the whitewash. The second was a third try for club record try scorer Bailey who finished well despite having captain Baumber in support on his outside.
Port Sunlight for their part never gave in, and were rewarded for their efforts with a consolidation push over try for their heavy pack. However, there was just time for one more Southport try. After a good break from Banks and replacement scrum half Dan Whalen committed several defenders, the ball found its way to Lang in the centres. Lang shaped to pass the ball back through his legs, and then with the most outrageous dummy, set off before selling another of his trade mark show and go’s and cutting back in to seal off a comprehensive win. Final score: Southport 74 Port Sunlight 5.
So Southport finishes ‘best of the rest’ this term, and can be rightly proud of so many excellent performances from this young talented squad of players. However, final plaudits must go to captain George Baumber who now retires from first team rugby after serving the team for fourteen years and magnificently leading front the front with humility.