Defence is the key to first win
On a bright sunny day, Fleetwood kicked off deep into the Southport 22.
Good pressure earned a line out 15 metres from the Southport line. A clean catch, coupled with a few phases of quick ball, saw an overlap created for Alex Ogden who scored in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed but a good start. 5-0. From the restart Southport came back strongly. Good continuity and quick ball engineered a well worked converted try to give them the lead. 5-7. Southport then had the upper hand for most of the first half. Fleetwood conceded a number of penalties giving Southport an opportunity to kick for goal. Fortunately for Fleetwood they were unsuccessful. Towards the end of the half Fleetwood were again defending for their lives deep in their own 22. Another penalty conceded and the referee finally lost patience with Fleetwood and James Lilley had to take a 10 minute rest. Southport opted for a scrum which led to a second converted try to give them a 5-14 lead at the break.
Coach Steve Woodburn’s half time team talk had the desired effect. The second half was a mirror image of the first. Fleetwood had been defending and short of possession but now it was Southport’s turn to be on the back foot. Fleetwood rotated their forwards wisely and they were carrying the ball with great effect. Mike Kelly, playing in an unfamiliar role at 10, ran the game with excellent support from all his backs especially Karl Bowling who made some telling breaks. Halfway through the second half, the pressure finally told as Southport’s defence cracked when George Orry crashed over in the right-hand corner. Once again the difficult conversion was missed but the deficit reduced to 10-14. Almost immediately Southport were on the attack deep in Fleetwood’s 22. A quick turnover saw the ball in the hands of Brad Stapleton who raced 70 metres to score under the posts. While Brad was on oxygen, the cultured left boot of hooker Ricky Newton slotted the conversion to give Fleetwood a 17-14 lead. The last quarter saw the game ebb and flow but resolute defence from both sides saw no further scores.
This game showed Fleetwood showed Fleetwood at their best. Defending as though their lives depended on it, they played for each other. Despite turning round with a 9 point deficit they never gave up against a very useful Southport outfit. Mike Kelly was awarded the Man of the Match by our sponsors for the day, Fleetwood RUFC Patrons, for his outstanding performance in an unfamiliar position. 17 others were not far behind him!
Report by Thomas Kenyon