LEIGHDERS OF THE PACK!
Division 2 League leading Southport 2nd team took to the East Lancs for a cold damp and boggy encounter with Leigh 2nd Team.
Ian Smith reports from the front line.
Conditions were heavy and the pitch so small the 22 and 10 meter line almost merged, Leigh fielded a very large pack that would suit the conditions but Southport took great confidence into the game as increased availability of players has seen competition of places increase.
Leigh were first to strike with a penalty kick giving them an early 3-0 lead this gave Southport the perfect opportunity with Adam Atkinson using his electric pace to put pressure from the resulting restart Mike Dale was quick to the break down showing strength and power to wrestle the ball back , great control and distribution from scrum half Dan Whalen set the backs free for Joe Spencer to crash through in the centre channel to quickly open Southport’s account with his brother Josh Spencer adding the conversion from long range. From the restart Craig Pacey took one of many bulldozering runs into stout Leigh defence, another powerful rip Dale gave scrum half Whalen quick ball for him to cross for a rapid second score again converted.
The wintery conditions and small pitch meant scrums and lineouts were aplenty and this is where Southport took a strangle hold on the game, The front 5 worked well as a unit despite the front row conceding a considerable weight advantage, Southport created significant pressure on the opposition scrum allowing Will Scot Abbot to expertly ball and at line out time he was hitting the leaping Jordan Caldwell with great accuracy, on the Leigh ball Atkinson was simply a menace able to get up higher and faster than the opposition every time and thus starving Leigh of possession, which was key to the outcome of the game as they were always dangerous in possession.
Next up on the Score sheet was the speed and guile of Chris Drescher who left scorch marks in the pitch as he out stepped and paced the Leigh defence. Southport were carrying the ball well into the tough leigh defence and no better example was Jordan Caldwell who was showing that force is function of acceleration and not just mass as he made several crashing runs through the heart of the leigh defence sucking in 3 sometimes 4 tacklers creating space out wide that Tom Smallwood was able to exploit as he beat several cover tacklers to race in for another Southport try. Coach Bernie Gavin had set an objective of intense early start with 4 tries the stretch target in order to secure the points and a dominant position, achieving this so early gave the team great confidence and further hard runs from Joe Gardner and jinking interplay from James Thompkinson combined with sublime skill from Josh Spencer who completed an unbelievable chip chase and gather at full pace with a tackler right on his shoulder rewarded Adam Atkinson with a well-deserved try and Southport 5 tries and 4 conversions up by half time.
The second half again started frenetically with Atkinson up so fast from the restart he caught the Southport kick unopposed Rei Chambers had come on and was adding his powerful ball carrying to the mix, a penalty conceded from leigh allowed Captain Andy Boland to Kick for the corner and with Caldwell Securing perfect ball in the line out pacey ripped and smuggled the ball back to Ian Smith, the Southport pack powered forward driven by the powerhouses of Cameron Williams and Dale surging for the line to give Smith an easy score at the back of the Maul. As Leigh made several changes and actually had small spells of possession Southport took the turn to defend and great tackles from Ryan Bailey helped face down the threat a final score came when Leigh cleared Southport pressure deep into Southport half, the ball worked wide right to Drescher. With a narrow pitch there was little space between the touch line and his opposite number so Chris set off and stepped inside his man, he seemed to enjoy this as he did it to the next man and the next one and the next one beating every Leigh defender that had enough energy left to get near him as he score a magnificent try in the bottom left corner.
A great Victory against a tough Leigh team keeps the 2nds top of the table but with likes of Kendal, Littleborough, Sedgley park and Bolton all in very close contention, it is going to a very interesting run in, with 6 home games out of the remaining 9 games left and top 5 clashes a plenty starting in 2 week’s time with the visit of Bolton it is going to a very entertaining and nail-biting final third of the season. The standard of opposition and the performance of the second team will impress many who come to watch and will offer great reward for the supporters at Waterloo Road