Under 14s 5 Leigh U14s 17
Southport U14s get tough lesson from visitors Leigh. Matt Palmer reports..
A dry and unseasonably warm Sunday morning provided welcome relief for supporters at Waterloo Road, as the U14s hosted Leigh in the final pool match of the Blacksticks Junior Challenge Lancashire cup. Both teams had won each of their other pool matches and were already safely through to the cup play offs, but both teams were likely keen to go forward unbeaten.
Southport were a few men short from key positions but managed to still field a well balanced side assisted by Lewis Peacock at fullback and James O’Keeffe at wing in their respective return after injury. A Southport kick-off started play, which was immediately knocked on for the first scrum of the game to the home side. The ball was played safely and the game started with both teams ferociously attacking the breakdown.
A Southport penalty to touch gave the home side the first chance with a 5m lineout but the ball was turned over by Leigh who showed their strength in the backs, niftily pushing Southport back into their own half with well drilled passing through the line. Southport looked strong in defence though and drove the visitors back to their 22 in multiple phases that were hit hard by both sides. Ball went back and forth, each team managing to turn over errors in frantic play, but the Leigh backs looked dangerous every time they found possession.
A break from Leigh looked particularly dangerous, but was intercepted by scrum half Ethan Hart, who recovered the ball to get back on the attack. An injury meant another well matched scrum though and Leigh were again on the attack with too much space and fast legs that led to the first points of the game, try to Leigh and Southport found themselves 0-5.
The restart led to more aggressive back and forth play, both teams attacking the breakdown hard. Leigh soon found themselves in an attacking position again, but a great clearance kick from fly-half Sam Roberts pushed them back into Leigh territory and a follow up tackle by Patrick Crann stopped the Leigh fullback at the Leigh 10m, putting the ball back in Southport hands with an infringement.
A kick to touch again put Southport in the visitor’s 22 but it got no further. A clearance kick sent Southport running back to stop the Leigh attack, wrestled back by Alex Buck who was standing in at centre from his usual flanker position. The Southport forwards took control and put power after power, driving the maul towards the try line, props Henry Etheridge and Christian Saundry solid as ever helped by a crashing run by no.8 Sol Palmer. This herculean effort was stopped by a series of knock-ons that kept the battle at the 22 with everything being hotly contested. Southport seemed to have learnt their lesson though and were keeping the ball away from the Leigh backs. Another accurate penalty kick from 10 Sam Roberts put Southport at the Leigh 5m with a minute to go, ball was safely gathered from lineout by lock Chris Stuttard and driven hard by back rows Richard Casselton and Solomon Palmer, but points evaded the hosts and the whistle sounded the end of the first half.
Indecision at the Leigh restart gave the visitors another chance in the opening minutes of the second half, deftly intercepted by Alex Buck followed by a great run by Sam Roberts, unluckily stopped by a high tackle that was lucky not to see yellow. A great follow up effort from powerhouse Christian Saundry, continued to drive the ball back into the Leigh half, but at high cost with Saundry having to leave the field with injury. The restarting scrum saw Southport uncharacteristically not on guard letting the Leigh outside centre run in a showboat try from his own 10m! Southport were down 12 points and not managing to capitalize on their own efforts despite carrying the majority of ball.
The restart went straight to scrum and a no.8 pick up from Southport’s Solomon Palmer who hit the Leigh back line at pace, carried on by Ethan Hart who managed to find Palmer again who pushed for line offloading to replacement prop Will Scott who received mid-air but was unable to place the ball, knock-on and scrum at 5m.
Southport kept up the offensive pushing right from left, crashing runs from Richard Casselton and Alex Buck were well held by Leigh but lock Jack Tomkins was able to power through and provide some much needed and well deserved points to the Southport scoreline, no conversion 5-12.
Southport again looked strong in the restart but equally matched by Leigh as ball was turned over again and again. Centre Alex Buck was fighting hard for possession but the Leigh pace again proved too much as their centres were able to push deep to the Southport 22. A solid stop by fullback Lewis Peacock assisted by flanker Richard Casselton saved them this time but Southport were looking a little behind the pace today and the next Leigh break led to another try to edge the scoreline to 5-17, beyond Southport’s reach with only a few minutes remaining. Pride kept commitment high though and both teams kept up the battle until a Leigh kick to touch brought the game to an end.
A good game from both sides with some clear lessons in line speed and discipline at the ruck for Southport ahead of the play offs.