Under 10s are quick off the blocks
Southport travelled to St Helens on Sunday, with West Park providing a tricky fixture to open the season at Under 10 level.
Game 1: West Park 1, Southport 3
U10 level provides a much more physical test than U9, as a number of new technical elements of rugby begin to come into the game; such as rucking, (uncontested) scrummaging and ripping the ball. Confidence was high in the camp following a number of strong training sessions but West Park fielded a large pack and it was clear that the Southport side would need to be at the top of their game to tackle out the opposition. Game 1 started with an intense ding dong of attacking runs, though there was no score for the first five minutes as defence dominated. George Harvey, last season’s player of the year, impressed in the opening salvo. George has excellent hands and feet, great footwork and brings a little bit of class every time he takes to the field. Charlie Hignett was at the centre of most good things from a Southport point of view, scoring a try and running the show from dummy half. However it was Charlie’s counter rucking that caught the eye, regularly winning ball for Southport and winning a man of the match performance for himself. Taylor McNulty is a tough nut and much of the attention was on him in both attack and defence. Taylor carried the ball strongly in both hands, a technique that some of the other boys could benefit from copying at times, and took a classy forwards try in the left hand corner. Ripping the ball is a new element of the game for these children and, although Southport were extremely good themselves at ambushing their opposition, the ball was lost in the tackle a number of times. But it all added to the excitement. A brilliant game was unfolding. Lewis Fusco is a very talented player, making lots and lots of tackles. Exciting in attack, Lewis had his crazy mazy running boots on this morning and whizzed in for a wonderful score. Peter Thompson had an unusual morning, operating as super sub he ensured plenty of game time due to the ferociousness of the matches. Peter has really come on since the summer break, putting in a good tackle count and excelling in counter rucking to secure the ball for the dummy half. What a game. What a win. What a start to the season.
Game 2: West Park 5, Southport 1
A quick turnaround and it was time for the second game of the morning. Lessons were learned from the first match and the side took a quick briefing from the coaches around ball retention. Southport had two debutants in this game, which was excellent to see. Charlie Duignan was working hard all match to maintain possession for his side. Charlie like all the debutants has adapted quickly to rugby and it is easy to see him being a real force in the future. Ethan Price was really enjoying his first game. An early tackle knocked the wind out of his sails for a short while but Ethan was quickly back on the field and demonstrated a lovely little switch ball to keep one attack moving and earn himself man of the match. Ben Selby was operating out on the right wing. Nimble with the ball in hand, Ben sharpened the scissors and got ready to take a scalp or two whenever he raced down the line. Lewis Grove scored an absolute peach of a try from his position of dummy half. Lewis is a good footballer, with nice soft hands, and he ran the game in a very controlled manner. James Pilkington was putting in some pile driving hits, using long rangy arms to rip the ball from the opposition in contact. Jack Hendry had a lot of ball this morning, running at the opposition full pelt and really enjoying some good contact sport. In defence Jack put in a memorable tackle; memorable for the spectators as it involved Jack flying full length through the air and planting a tackle that his opponent will remember for some time. Jack Rogan had a great game. Jack looked solid all game, carrying the ball well inn attack and getting involved in the thick of it when it came to defending the line. Unfortunately West Park made Southport do a little bit too much defending in this rubber and ran out eventual winners.
Game 3: West Park 2, Southport 3
Back to the side that started the first game and they were back to the same tricks. Another game, another bruising encounter. Southport upped their intensity and, having tasted victory once, were out for more of the same. Angus Gray was aggressive in defence and effective in attack. Angus was not so much weaving as bruising his way consistently over the gain line. Lewis Parker was a legend in defence. The king of sting was at it again, putting in hit after hit after hit. What a tackler Lewis is; you can still here the crunch from here. Dillon Smith was as reliable as ever. Dillon set up wave after wave of attacks and counter attacks, setting up scores for his team mates and taking a well-earned try himself from some distance out. Star of the show in Game 3 through was Ollie Benford. Ollie really got on his bike this morning and bagged himself a brace of tries. You would have to go a long way to see a better try than his first score, Ollie ran at a man twice his size, did him for pace, got snaffled inches from the line and then popped under the legs of the big lad out on the wing before dotting down over the whitewash. His second was less dramatic, though more of Ollie’s style, with raw speed earning the score in the corner to seal victory for Southport right at the death.
Game 4: West Park 3, Southport 3
Three more debutants took to the field in Game 4 and did themselves and the club proud. Zack Owens made a real nuisance of himself throughout. Zac was strong in contact and clobbered the west Park boys backwards in the ruck situations. Harry Johnson showed some good pace out on the right wing. Harry ran a drift pattern to create space for Jack Hendry to run in to. Ben Davies showed some pace out on the left wing. Ben put in some good runs and was unlucky not to score the winner, with only the touchline denying a maiden score. Thomas Pilkington had a busy time of it. Thomas was thumping his way through the centres with ball in hand whilst simultaneously getting down and dirty in the forwards. Kieran Rimmer had a wonderful game showing real aggression and determination in his running. Some of Kieran’s play was totally off the cuff, showing natural talent and real comfort with the ball in hand as he crashed over for a great try. Lewis Grove was again the puppet master at dummy half. It will be interesting to see Lewis at that position again. It might not be his preferred position but Lewis had plenty of ball this morning and helped himself to a superb try in Game 4. Man of the match though was Cohen Murphy. Cohen can punish you from anywhere on the field with fast footwork and demonstrated good pace and intensity in running in for a tough try. This was a tough game all round and, though a couple of decisions could have gone to the TMO, a draw was probably a fair reflection.
This was a special morning. We had full contact, scrums and rucking. We had twenty one boys that gave their all for themselves, their team mates and Southport rugby club. Every child and every parent left West Park with a smile on their faces. Likewise West Park were a credit to their club. They played with passion and dignity; everything that you would expect from a good old club. Many thanks to coach Damian and all of your players for hosting and for providing a marvellous time this morning. The crowd was not large but fashionable and thoroughly entertained.