Manchester 33 v Southport 5
Another solid performance from Manchester earning a bonus point win.
Playing into a very strong wind the emphasis for the home side was to keep the ball in hand and play their way up the pitch, keeping the ball away from Southport.
Right from the outset Manchester were on their ‘A’ game, playing solid patterns gaining ground through multi-phase play, as Southport chose to kick from hand when in possession using the wind to take play back into the Manchester half. However, each time this happened Manchester were able to break out, twice they were unlucky not to convert possession into points. At the third time of asking, they won a penalty in Southport’s 22; electing to take a scrum the ball was moved right and on third phase ball Sam Powell crashed over close to the posts, conversion made 7v0, 10 mins into game.
The pattern of the first half was now set, Southport choosing to kick away possession to gain territory, Manchester retaining the ball well and making the ground back. From a scrum on their ten yard line Manchester moved the ball down the line where James Graham cut in and made a clean break; as he grubber kicked ahead the ball was bundled into touch. Manchester won the resulting line out and caught Southport offside in the middle, the penalty was kicked to touch. A catch and drive from 10 metres out so Charlie Ding score, conversion made 14v0, 20 mins into the game.
Most of the next ten minutes was played between the respective 22’s, as Southport continued to kick for territory and Manchester opted for multi-phase possession rugby but never quite breaking through.
On 30 mins and for almost the first time in the game Southport secured the ball in the Manchester 22 as a result of a knock on in midfield; as they moved the ball off the scrum Manchester were adjudged offside, the ball being kicked to touch. This was the first test of the Manchester defence and they proved up to the task. Through several phases of play, Southport failed to get across the gain line and lost ground, eventually conceding a penalty for holding on.
Manchester were quick to break out and moved play deep into the Southport half, forcing a scrum on the 22. With two Southport players down there was a five minute break as players were treated by the medical staff, one player being withdrawn from the game.
As play resumed Manchester moved the ball down the blind side and Doug Day was able to go over for the third try, conversion missed as the half time whistle sounded, 19v0. An excellent first half performance keeping the visitors of the scorecard when playing into a very strong wind.
The second half could not have got off to a worse start for Southport. As they sought to retain possession and move the ball through the phases they spilled the ball in front of their posts; Lewis Mckay seized on the ball and was unlucky to be tackled just short of the line but as the ball was recycled Freeman was able to score under the posts, conversion made, bonus point secured 26v0.
As in the first half the majority of play for the next ten minutes was between the respective 10 metre line, as play broke down following handling errors on both sides.
The pattern of play was finally broken when Manchester earned a penalty as a Southport player held on in the tackle. The ball was kicked to touch on the Southport 22 line; good line out ball was moved to Doug Day who cut back inside scoring the try as he went over unopposed, conversion made 33v0.
With twenty minutes to go, dominating possession and territory it looked like Manchester would be able to build on their lead for the rest of the game, however, this proved not to be the case.
From their next attack Manchester did get over the try line but the ball was adjudged to be held up, from then on the Southport try line was never threatened again. To their credit the Southport defence held firm as Macnhester were consistently penalised by the referee either for offside or for multiple offences at the ruck. The referee’s patience eventually wore thin and he sinned binned Nick Elliot for a ruck offence.
With Manchester down to 14 men and as the final whistle approached, Southport finally able to string some phases together in the Manchester 22 and score a well deserved try, conversion missed, final score 33v5.
Once again some good all round play from Manchester, the scrum was dominant consistently putting Southport on the back foot; the line out worked well; when the backs got the ball they made good ground and scored a couple of well worked tries. Most importantly, in the first half when faced with a strong wind the ball handling and pattern of play were excellent, providing a solid base for the win.