LINE OUT GOES WANDERING AT BOLTON.
By Graham Ellis
Seconds suffer narrow defeat in challenging conditions as reported by our man in the thick of the action George Baumber.
So the second team were on their travels to Bolton looking to kick start their season and record a first win. With an exciting backline including debutant Joe Bradford at outside centre there would appear to be bags of pace and skill that should surely pose a threat to any teams defence in our league. The pack is best described as experienced with a sprinkling of youth in the form of regular first teamer Calum Monaghan, back row convert Ryan Bailey and Lewis Johnson making his senior debut.
In conditions that changed from one extreme to another throughout the 80 minutes it was going to be a tricky game for both teams. Bolton kicked off and the ball was recycled well for a few phases before being kicked deep into Bolton territory for the first lineout of the game. As if to set the tone for the entire game Southport struggled to secure their own ball through the lack of experienced jumpers or forwards light enough to be lifted. Both teams hammered away at each other with Bolton’s number 8 and 10 dominating territory through some excellent kicking throughout the first half. After one such good kick chase Bolton were awarded a penalty in front of the posts to take the first points of the game.
Undeterred Southport responded positively and made territory into the opposition half through a strong run from Dan Lovett from the back of a lineout. The ball was recycled to the backs who were trying to play rugby but actually knocked on and conceded a scrum. Graham Riley and Ian Smith with many first team appearances under their belts finally started to dominate their larger props and got a big nudge on to turn over the scrum. Ged picked from the back and from a couple of good phases in the forwards Captain Boland released the backs who had less than half the pitch to play in but importantly had the extra man. Joe cut a great line from outside centre before flipping the pass out to Jamie Rodd who finished superbly holding off two scrambling defenders in the process.
So at half time Southport led 3-5 and Boland and pack leader Monaghan called from more aggression and rucking from the forwards as Johnson was proving a real menace at the breakdown area. Shortly after the second half began Bolton realising the conditions were going to make this a close game took the opportunity to kick a penalty from near the touchline. No number 8 at any level should be kicking penalties from there or so we hoped but it was a superb kick which gave Bolton a 6-5 lead. Both teams continued to try to play rugby but unfortunately possession was often spilt with careless knock-on’s. Ryan Bailey made some strong driving carries but unfortunately for Southport he was often not supported by the rest of the pack. This would prove costly when Bolton finally made their pressure in the Southport half pay off with a well crafted try after several phases of play. With the conversion missed Bolton had a 6 point lead.
Phil Hughes went on a jinxing run down the left wing but due to an earlier infringement by Bolton the ref had already blown his whistle which he immediately apologised for as he should have played the advantage. Would that prove costly? What more could Southport do?
Firstly they stopped kicking the ball out for lineout’s which they'd fail to win consistently and let the battering rams within the pack run it in to try and create the platform for the back s to excel. This was successful as they spent the final minutes of the game encamped in the Bolton 22 but a difficult penalty kick shaved the wrong side of the post and the team struggled to find a way to cross the lines. Bolton awarded man of the match to Andy Boland but other notable mentions should be made for Ryan Bailey who looked very good in his new flanker role, James Tompkinson who's skills were utilised well in his unaccustomed place at 10 and Chris Tees at fullback who was peppered throughout the game with kicks and managed to run and dance around several opposition players. If the 2s can get a consistent pack out who can work on lineout’s to secure more possession then the 2s will start to record more wins soon.