Sunshine (Again) On Another Rainy Day!
Barry Roberts reports on U15's latest convincing victory.
The first Sunday of the New Year saw Southport U15, unbeaten against all their Lancashire opponents during 2015, make the short trip to old rivals Preston Grasshoppers where they continued their excellent form, winning 34:7.
Southport arrived with 26 players, all keen to run off their mince pies and stake a claim for places in next Sunday's Lancashire Cup match squad. The starting XV duly announced, the game started in steady rain which made for ideal mud wrestling conditions rather than than the flowing rugby these two teams tend to produce.
Preston started the stronger, quickly adapting to the conditions with numerous pick & drives into Southport territory. Eventually Southport stole the ball on their own 22m line and quickly turned defence into attack before, they too, were halted in their tracks, this time just over the halfway line. The resulting kick for touch gave Preston an attacking lineout on Southport's 5m line, only for the visitors to steal the ball, demonstrate some great handling in the wet conditions and release their full back down the line, 5-0 to Southport.
Preston gathered from the re-start and continued to use their pick & drive to good effect, grinding their way towards Southport's try line. Unusually, given Southport's excellent defensive record of late, they failed to prevent a Preston try, 7-5 to our hosts.
Once again Southport opted to trust their handling skills and running lines, creating a carbon copy of the move that resulted in their first try, only this time the support player was held up just short of the line before the forwards piled in to finish off the move, 12-7 to Southport.
The visitors now began to have the lion's share of possession, creating several holes in the host's defensive line only to concede possession with a couple of forward passes or releasing the ball a little too late.
Unsurprisingly, given the continuing poor conditions, play from both teams was a little messy at times resulting in plenty of scrum practice; Southport's pack showed their dominance in winning the ball 3 times against the head in quick succession before eventually breaking down the blindside from the last turnover to add to their score, 17-7 to Southport.
In spite of the heavy conditions Southport's forwards continued their rampaging runs to crash over for a fourth try, the score now 22:7 in Southport's favour.
The hosts understandably tired, their smaller match day squad didn't afford them the luxury of 'rolling' subs and they had to defend for long periods. Preston committed more and more players to the rucks the closer the ball got to the line, spaces inevitably opened for Southport to run at, creating a '3 on 1' and another try, 27:7 to the visitors.
Preston now put in a tremendous defensive shift to try and prevent Southport adding any more points to their tally. As the visitors ran switch plays and attacking lines across the park, they were repeatedly halted short of the line until the last play of the day saw Southport's fly half carve open the defensive line, before popping the ball into the space he created for Southport's centre to round off the scoring, 34:7 to Southport.
Another stern test for Southport, that they once again rose to the challenge of.