SOUTHPORT U16 V ROSSENDALE U16
A sunny Sunday morning greets the U16's for their first game of the season. Martyn Sime reports.
Far be it from your humble reporter to question a poet such a Keats, but it would be hard to find a day less like his description of autumn on at least two important counts. Not mist, but bright sun greeted Southport’s U16 team on the day of their first competitive match of the 2015 -16 season. And without doubt there was nothing mellow about this encounter with a physically strong, capable and very committed Rossendale side. But at least there was fruitfulness – albeit based on narrow margins that were not reflected by the score - and not all of it coming from ‘the plan’.
Early season injuries and the lure of the World Cup meant that there were several players making their debut as starters in a cup game. All of them impressed with their performances but it was James K’s run on receiving the kick-off that laid down the marker for Southport’s commitment. A summer spent playing the other code and learning some new lessons almost lead to an early breakthrough by James C as he picked up a well flighted pass from Charlie C on our 22, broke the line and headed for the corner. Where others might have given up, Rossendale’s number 14 found another gear, brought James to the ground and forced the knock-on.
The first scrum showed how hard the pack would have to work to get anything out of the game. Rossendale were strong, but Charlie S was quick, tackling the scrum-half as he moved the ball on, enabling the charge down and, after a period of midfield ping pong, winning Southport the put in. Again strong driving from Rossendale saw the scrum moving back but with the fixed five providing enough resistance for Louis J to move the ball quickly a pattern was set. Charlie C called the move, the back row followed, set the maul and quickly joined by the rest of the pack, drove forward to place Louis J within striking distance. Try, quickly converted by Tom Ste. from a difficult angle.
The restart led to a sustained period of Rossendale pressure. Southport gave away a series of penalties that could, on a different day, have seen them heavily punished if tackles hadn’t been made, or if Tom Sto. had been marginally slower in drifting across to cover and combat a series of well worked Rossendale overlaps. Pressure was relieved by Matt playing at fly-half. He dummied the kick, hit the resultant gap and then launched the ball forward as pursuit closed in. Seventy-five metres gained and an opportunity to challenge at the line out which lead to a Southport put in at the subsequent scrum. This provided one of the few occasions in the game where the backs got an opportunity to work a planned move. ‘The plan’ was working, they made ground, the forwards arrived, and the ball came back the other way, only for the final pass to be judged forward, as Conrad, who was as committed as he was selfless all game, crossed the line.
With Rossendale clearing their lines, the forwards put in some real hard graft to move the ball back up the pitch. Repeatedly working two through and two over, they managed a sustained period of quick ball and effective pod work that gave Charlie S the opportunity to work the ‘snap’ and Louis J his second try.
But those of us watching from the side lines could see how tiring it was for the players on the pitch. The forwards were taking a pounding, Jake and James K had to leave the pitch injured and Rossendale were camped between Southport’s 10m line and their 22. As luck would have it they got a breather when the referee lost patience with the jiggery-pokery and told both of the scrum-halfs to stop interfering with each other’s put ins. Brotherly solidarity came into play, a half turn, a smile to each other, and a look that said, “Me and you? How dare he accuse us of anything so base!”
As the half came to a close Southport began to work their way slowly back up the pitch. A series of scrums as Rossendale were unfortunate to lose the ball forwards each time they regained it, put Toots in striking range. Held up on the line Charlie S gave the show-and-go and dived into the space he created to increase Southport’s advantage.
The second half opened with Joe P., on at scrum-half, chasing down the kick to tackle the receiver and buy the forwards some time. They needed it. Rossendale took the ball into contact, and took advantage of their weight, strength and better body position to shunt Southport back 15m. Only a big hit by Harry H. stopped Rossendale breaking away and as he ripped the ball after the tackle he set of for the corner with Matt T in support. Great awareness from both players saw Matt on Harry’s shoulder as he made the offload just short of the try line. But all was for naught as the Rossendale defence recovered, made their tackles and forced the knock-on.
It was now Southport’s turn to defend as Rossendale counter-rucked well and broke out. A series of tackles by Tom Sto. allowed Southport to recover their composure and establish a more effective defence. But from the way the game had started to turn it looked as if Rossendale could score once the floodgates might open – and they really looked like scoring as they broke Southport’s defensive line. With only one man to beat, (Angus on for Tom Sto. at full back) it looked like a near certainty, but Angus picked his target, made his move and put in a massive tackle to save the try and regain the initiative for Southport.
Southport’s next attack came from a side step and fast hands from Chip, taking over from Matt at fly half. With support on his shoulder all the way Jake benefitted from the uncertainty that Tom Sto.’s run had created in the minds of the defenders and scored in the corner. But Chip had nothing on Toots’ display of salsa steps that followed the final restart of the game. Without doubt a ‘ten from Len’ he took a stalled attack forward to put George into a position where he could score the final points of the match.
Man of the Match – Joel K. A massive performance that repeatedly disrupted Rossendale’s ball and showed real competitiveness and determination. His post modernist installation of ‘Elderly Man Leaning on a Bar’ at the back of the game’s final maul showed how much he had given to the team throughout the match.
Champagne moment – Angus’ tackle.
SOUTHPORT 30 ROSSENDALE 0