Southport 3rd XV 43 – 34 Hoylake 2nd XV by Dave Atherton
It was a wet and windy afternoon, not ideal conditions for a game of running rugby, but the two sides on show at Waterloo Road gave the good sized crowd an entertaining afternoon. The 3rd XV put out a strong and experienced side against a Hoylake team that had beaten them twice already this season, and talk before the game was that third time would be a charm for Southport.
After a good warm-up, led by Ady ‘Jonah’ Jones, the team were ready to go into battle and it wasn’t long before Southport got the first try on the board. After a lovely kick into the corner by Mark Astwood, Hoylake were forced to clear giving Southport a line out 10 metres from the try line. In a sign of things to come the lineout was perfectly executed and the driving maul was set up. Jimmy ‘the knee’ Thomas took the ball at the back, and the pack, directed by Dave Atherton, pushed straight through the Hoylake defence enabling Thomas to ground the ball in the corner. Conversion missed, 5-0 Southport.
It wasn’t long until Southport were at it again. This time some driving runs from the forwards allowed the backs to produce quick hands finding flanker Dean Skelton out wide with a clear run into the corner. This time Atherton converted, much to the annoyance of the referee who had already informed him that he had “put it down as a miss”. 12-0 Southport.
So far so good, however, this was never going to be an easy game and Hoylake were soon back in the game scoring in the corner after a break down the wing. 12-5 Southport.
At this point Jonah came to the fore. Some wonderful continuity play saw offload after offload by Southport forwards and backs and the ball ended up in the hands of the big number 8. The big man then weaved through (or ran over) the defence to score just to the left of the posts and the conversion was duly added again. 19-5 Southport.
Hoylake then came back into the game, highlighting Southport’s ‘experience’ by using their quick backs to run around the Southport defence to score two unanswered tries, both unconverted. 19-15 Southport.
Southport then extended their lead again with another excellently worked lineout routine. With the lineout awarded five metres out, captain Doran called for a five-man line. Hooker Mike Sheard threw one of many perfect balls right to the back were Jones was waiting unmarked. All that was left was the short trip to the line to ground the ball under the posts allowing Atherton another conversion. This was quickly followed by another unconverted Hoylake try leaving the score 26-20 to Southport at half time.
The half-time team talk by manager Andy Whitfield was to keep working hard and the rewards would come. A few substitutions freshened up the pack, with new boy Lewis Scotton making way after a good debut for the ever reliable Neil Bayliff, and the injured Ste Hunter making way for new dad Tony Hudson.
The second half followed a very similar pattern to the first with Southport having the majority of possession and Hoylake counter attacking with their lively backs. The first score though went to Southport. A good run by Rob White saw Southport move into the opposition 22 and draw in the defence. Quick ball form Atherton allowed Shane Cook, who has kept the first team pitch in top condition even through all this bad weather, to ship the ball out to the now winger, Dean Skelton, to score his second in the corner. The conversion attempt failed leaving Southport looking comfortable at 31-20.
That feeling of comfort was soon increased. After a sustained period of pressure Hoylake were awarded a scrum on their own 5 metre line, however, the Southport pack had ideas of their own and after a good hook by Sheard the full power of the pack drove Hoylake back to the line for Jonah to pick up and score his hat-trick try to the right of the posts. With the conversion added the score was looking good for Southport leading 38-20.
Unfortunately the tiring Southport team were then caught out twice allowing Hoylake to close within 4 points after two converted tries.
As we entered the last five minutes of the match, it was still very much in the balance, but the greater experience of the Southport team showed, slowing the game down and controlling possession. With just a couple of minutes to go, however, the backs decided to spread the ball wide and after some fine interplay, and a remarkable reverse pass from Neil Bayliff, John Roberts put the cherry on the cake scoring in the corner to leave the final score 43-34.
A great team performance form the 3s saw them to the win, but thanks must go to captain Doran and manager Whitfield for getting us all together and getting us to play as a team. There were a number of stand-out performances including Jonah’s hat trick (you still owe us a jug!!), and Dean’s brace of tries (you owe us a jug too for jug avoidance) but Man of the Match went to Rob White for his all round performance, and particularly his rampaging runs in the loose.