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by Graham Ellis

Southport travelled away for the last league game of the year to face basement side Trentham who were looking to spoil the party. Mike Smith reports.

The visitors started well, and an early stolen lineout after a great leap from Gareth Lang, supported byDan Aindow, allowed scrum half Jake Mann to find Joe Mawdsley on the crash. He set up good ball for outside half Dan Whalen to marshal his backs in attack, and a great inside pass found full-back Tom Peacock on the charge to break through the defence and score a converted try. However, Southport had an immediate relapse after the restart, and an infringement gave Trentham the chance to reduce the deficit with a well struck penalty.

Southport’s lead was extended a short tine later after a long range penalty was converted by Mann, however Trentham were determined to take the game to the visitors and were aided by several missed tackles and penalties with Southport struggling to remain onside. This presented the Trent men with another kickable opportunity, however they instead chose to run the penalty and their bravery was rewarded with the grounding of a driving maul over the Southport try line. And from the restart, an uncharacteristic Southport lapse saw seven missed tackles before Trentham were again awarded a penalty for an offside, which they chose to kick and take a deserved 11-10 lead. With half-time approaching however, Southport’s Whalen broke the home side’s hearts when he saw the opportunity to intercept a pass and plucked the ball out of the air and ran through to score a converted try and regain the lead.

As the teams turned round, Southport knew they needed to up their game, and despite being a Mann down after he was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on, respond they did. With the forwards now rucking with purpose, lead by Sam Cross and Colin Fearns, they began to grind the Trentham pack down, and this created space for Southport’s backs to exploit, allowing great hands to find Jamie Bailey in the gap and through to score under the sticks.

Trentham did have a brief sojourn into Southport territory thanks to a series of varied penalties, and these presented an opportunity for a second forwards drive over the whitewash. However, Southport looked dangerous every time they got the ball out wide, with the pace of Chris Drescher a constant threat, and this foil allowed Bailey to run from inside his own 22 into the opposition’s quarter. From a resulting penalty, Southport chose to tap and go, feeding Jamie Church, and the big man showed deft hands to put in Bailey who took two players with him over the line for his second try.

Southport were now dominating in every area and with a penalty at the scrum after great pressure from the solid Tom Smith, they chose to attack from a lineout on the edge of the Trentham 22. Callum Monaghan at hooker found his man well, and this provided quick ball for Danny Banks, now at outside half, to pick out Bailey with an inch perfect long pass for the centre to burn through the opposition like a forrest fire and score his second hat trick in two weeks, again converted by Mann.

Southport were now playing controlled rugby putting together phases of play, and this presented opportunities to get the ball out wide. As the forwards drew in their opposition, Jake McMullen, now controlling the game at 10, got his backs moving forward, and simple hands found Josh Critchley, now plying his trade at outside centre. Despite the pleas from Dylan Norbury on his outside, the number 8 pinned his ears back and charged for the line to score Southport’s final try of the match

So despite a spirited Trentham performance, Southport triumphed with a workman-like second half performance and captain George Baumber can proudly lead his team into the New Year after a great finish to 2014.

*Dan scored one of his collector piece try’s on Saturday afternoon. Clearly went to his head as come the evening he thought he was Jesus Christ!

We also have another account from a former Southport stalwart Graham Thompson who, together with his record-points scoring twin brother Andrew (Southport had THE original Thompson Twins!), played for the club in the sixties and seventies. Graham now lives in South Cheshire but keeps in contact with the club via email and the web site and took the opportunity to pop over to Trentham to support the lads. This is the sort of thing that makes this club unique. Anyway I share his take on the game…

“It was a cold, crisp pm. The Trentham ground has a slope down the pitch, which was rather too boggy for the Southport backs. You would have thought they would have had more than 2 balls available, judging by the frequency with which they were kicked beyond the pitch boundaries.

The Trentham pack won scrums throughout the game, except for unaccountably being pushed off their own ball with 10 mins to go. But that was probably as well, as Southport would have run up a cricket score, especially with the possession they obtained from the line-outs. Trentham must have done 70% of the tackling.

Southport started slowly and were only leading by 6 points at half time, and that only thanks to an interception try.

Your number 13 had a field day and scored at least 3 tries.

Apart from a scrambled try, Trentham had little ball or territory in the second half, when they were hoping to take advantage of the slope. The final score was 41-16, I think – difficult to keep track with no paper or pen and gloved hands.

Southport were very impressive when running the ball and a firmer pitch would have helped.

I was amused to hear a Trentham player shout to a team mate, “Well done, duck” as that is how Potteries’ men sometimes address each other (in Hull they call each other ‘Love’!!). I don’t know what any Sandgrounders made of that.

There were only about 20 spectators and there was no tea or coffee available in the bar – not a patch on the Hillside hospitality.

With very best wishes for the coming festivities.

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