Southport win through to Lancashire Colts Cup Final in another close encounter of the tense kind.
Otterspool Promenade was not a place for the faint hearted on Sunday afternoon when Southport took on Liverpool Collegiate in a game in which the stakes were high.
The home side had only lost one game all season in winning League D, having fought tooth and nail with runners-up Widnes who Southport had beaten in the last round with a last gasp drop-goal from captain Jacob McMullen .And it was McMullen who got his team off to a great start with an early penalty expertly using the wind to curl it between the posts.
The strength of the wind and the rain determined that this was not a day for champagne rugby, and the home side used it to good advantage to keep Southport pinned in their own half. But good defence was spoilt by giving away sloppy penalties in kicking range which Collegiate duly converted to take a 6-3 lead.
But the Southport forwards went up a gear and despite losing talisman ‘big’ Sam Cross with a broken jaw spent the end of the first half camped in the Collegiate twenty-two. But the home side tackled like demons and there was simply no way through.
On the back of this encouraging period and with the wind behind them Southport would have expected more of the same from the outset in the second half. But the team seemed strangely lack lustre, many of them possibly suffering from an ill-advised club night out the previous evening, and allied with poor decision making Collegiate were able to preserve their hard earned lead.
With scoring chances few and far berween and the clock starting to wind down things were looking ominous, but as with the first half the forwards began to turn the screw and when it mattered the valiant home defence was eventually breached with Forest Bailey taking a crash ball to bull-doze over, leaving McMullen with a relatively easy conversion (although not in this weather!) to put Southport 10-6 ahead with ten minutes to go.
To be fair the Southport defence throughout the game was simply magnificent denying the home side any sniff of a try, but with only four point’s difference there was still a job to be done. Thankfully there was to be no sting in the tail and when the referee blew for full time the Southport players let out an almighty roar knowing they had edged an epic encounter on a tricky pitch in very difficult conditions against worthy opponents. In truth the game could have gone either way, but in the end Southport just had the edge when it mattered.
This was undoubtedly due to the collective spirit and resolve of all twenty-two members of the squad, comprising both under 19s and under 18s, the reward being a trip to Fylde RFC to take on Preston Grasshoppers in the final of the most prestigious cup at this age group in the county. In doing so the lads will be looking to turn the clock back to 1975 when the Southport Colts of that era won the competition for the first and so far only time in its inaugural year. In terms of omens the Greenhalgh name once again looms large with fly-half Nick hoping to match the achievements of his Uncles Mark and Ian to further etch the family achievements in the annals of Southport RFC folklore.
A word too for the tremendous support on the touchline, with Southport supporters turning up in their droves on a brutal afternoon to help the lads cross the line.