Southport U14s Clinch Win After Stiff Challenge From Rochdale
By Stephen Hart
Southport U14s made it three wins from their last three Lancashire Junior Rugby Challenge matches as players showed resilience against Rochdale
Southport took on Rochdale at Waterloo Road in the fifth round of the Lancashire Junior Rugby Challenge looking for their third win in the group stage. Without the sanctuary of a dressing room for the home side due to a busy morning of Junior Rugby, the players claimed mitigating circumstances for their slow start to the match. In truth, Rochdale were up for it!
The visitors dominated the opening phase of the match and their powerful centres were able to break the gain line on several occasions and came close to scoring more than once. However, the home players have been developing resilience and organisation to add to their acknowledged skills in recent weeks, so the defence creaked but didn't buckle under heavy Rochdale pressure.
But confidence grew from having weathered the storm and Southport started to secure good possession and territory gains through some controlled phased play by the forwards and assured handling by the backs and it was No.8 Euan Thomas who broke the deadlock, touching down in the right hand corner following a pick and go from 10 meters out.
Southport now started to take control of the game and looked favourite to stretch their lead before half time. However, a loose pass in midfield went to ground and a Rochdale boot kicked it through the Southport defensive line and into space which allowed the Rochdale centre to kick on again before winning the race to the line and dropping onto the ball for a good try and an easy conversion.
However, Southport again showed resilience after this setback and found just enough time in the half to mount a further assault on the Rochdale line and, following a tap penalty in the Rochdale 22, back rower Ben Hunt was able to power over the line and between the posts for Charlie Mallon to convert the extras. Southport finished the half 12 -7 up.
The conditions slightly favoured Southport in the Second Half and they were able to slow the game down with inside centre Jack Carney sensibly opting to kick penalties for touch where they were assured of an uncontested line out. Both sides had a fair share of possession and territory in the second half and the Southport lead was not comfortable until outside centre Luke Hart scored the third try for the hosts after an elusive run and clever grubber behind the wide defenders with 10 minutes to go. The conversion attempt was out of range so it was a 10 point gap for Southport to defend.
With a degree of assuredness and control, the home team were able to see out the remainder of the game without a further score to either side despite one or two concerted efforts and near misses by both teams. Both sets of coaches agreed it had been an excellent and hard fought match which could have swung either way, so both squads will head into the Christmas break pleased with their last performance of the year.