SOUTHPORT U16s 25 WATERLOO U16s 5
Two teams who know each other well. Martyn Sime reports on this local derby...
It wasn’t just the weather that had the mercury rising this Sunday morning . There was also the prospect of an unexpected derby against local rivals Waterloo. Pretty much every fit member of the U16s squad was at the Club and out running through drills well before kick-off, whilst their growing body of vocal supporters, no doubt attracted by the later kick-off time and the proximity of the clubhouse were making the most of an opportunity for an excellent brunch.
With several players having moved between the clubs over the last few seasons and Southport welcoming back John C. there was going to be a little extra spice on top of that already expected of a derby. Not quite a trip across the park, but a real opportunity for Monday morning bragging rights for both teams.
The opening exchanges pretty much set the pattern for the match. A bit nervy, handling errors a plenty, a lack of willingness to let the ball do the work and two packs still getting used to the added dimensions that lifting at the lineout brings to the forward’s game. It was moves of individual skill and effort that brought Southport their biggest gains or left them looking at the ball in Waterloo’s hands as players held on just too long waiting for support to arrive.
After a series of initial breaks by Southport’s extremely mobile back row, well supported by John C. Tom Sto. and Spencer, Southport had Waterloo pegged within 15 metres of their own try line. A series of Southport attacks were held up short, the ball lost, and pressure relieved. Good catching and kicking by Tom Ste. kept the ball alive, and by changing the angle of attack allowed lost ground to be regained. For the second week running the opposition’s bigger and heavier pack meant that the fixed five were going to have a tough time in the set piece. It was however a set piece (a scrum) following on from another set piece (lineout), that gave Southport’s backs their first opportunity to collectively move the ball with pace. Josh, hooking for the first time this season, managed the ball safely back. Quick hands from Charlie S. saw the ball away and with Matt getting his centres moving at speed before rejoining the line and receiving the return, space finally appeared and Matt was over in the corner. 5-0.
Following the restart, more lineout mayhem finally saw Southport back on their 22 metre line, albeit with the ball. But with Waterloo’s pack working well, the maul was stopped and the ball changed hands yet again. Out-manoeuvring Southport’s blitz defence, Waterloo carried the ball across the pitch to make their claim for the corner. 5-5.
What could have been a score that gave the initiative to Waterloo was quickly countered by effective tactical kicking. A near perfect restart from Matt saw Southport back within striking distance of the corner and as Tom Sto. charged down a kick to touch, Harry was on hand to pick up the loose ball and charge in from 10 metres. 10 – 5.
Southport were lucky not to be pegged back almost immediately. Despite Josh and George combining well at the restart, Sheridan and Joel working hard to provide support, and the ball flying through the backs’ hands, the ferocious tackling meant that there was always a risk of a turnover in the tackle. Again Waterloo were able to kick to relieve pressure and despite excellent line out work by Nathan, quick reactions saw Waterloo intercept the ball just as it reached Southport’s backs. The breakaway was clearly on but somehow James C. managed to change direction, hare off in pursuit and make the tackle.
As the half drew to a close individual Southport players made a series of incisive attacks that with a bit more support might have drawn dividends. But strong defence from Waterloo and calm kicking from their fly-half, Alfie B, kept them in the game and stopped Southport from turning territory into any further points.
Despite wholesale changes in personnel at the start of the second half the pattern of the game was maintained. Working hard to correct a series of errors, Southport’s performance started to draw ahead of that of their rivals. Every time the ball was kicked to safety Southport drove it back. However it took a change of approach to turn Waterloo’s very determined defence, and playing heads-up rugby, James C, spotted an opening. As the ball came off yet another line out he spotted the space, kicked for the corner, and provided the freedom for John C. to run in and score. 15-5.
More sustained pressure from Southport saw Conrad picking up where he had left off last week. Strong runs intended to keep the ball alive and away from the touchline saw him mere metres out on several occasions. But slow support and a tendency to jackal for the ball rather than clear-out and step over saw a series of penalties awarded against the home team. This failure to follow ‘the plan’ resulted in Waterloo generating their longest period of sustained pressure in the game. Fortunately tight defensive work meant that Southport were finally able to break out and counter attack.
With Joe P and Lewis J providing vocal leadership;Louis JF combining well with Toots, Rhys, Callum, George and Charlie C; and Joe H, Angus and Tom Sto. showing that backs can ruck when they want to, a series of set moves almost resulted in further breakthroughs. Unfortunately nothing came of the effort with a comedy of errors seeing the ball knocked on first by James C.’s face and then by the referee!
Another forward’s move saw Southport’s penultimate try of the game. Charlie C fed Connor. A drive held up with recycled ball encouraging Matt to run for the line. Matt too was held up and it looked like Waterloo would be able to clear their lines yet again. Connor, rejoining the move, came in like a wrecking ball. He drove Matt on and as the dust settled found himself proud owner of a shiny new try! 20 – 5.
With the game effectively beyond Waterloo’s reach Sam P. and Jordan got their first run out for the club and Alex came into the front row, reviving flagging collective energy levels. Again Southport’s biggest threat came from direct running from George and Rhys and finally a period of faster ball saw Sam P. almost over in the corner. Tackled, the resultant scrum saw the set move go as it had been planned in training - inside - while Ady, stood level on the touchline, screamed blindside. Luckily Louis JF was listening and as the maul stalled he rolled off the back and, effectively unopposed, ran the ball in for Southport’s final try of the game. 25 – 5.
With plenty of potential on show across the pitch this was a purposeful rather than polished performance and I for one am looking forward to January’s trip to Hall road.
To see all the action click HERE