Southport RUFC 16 v 24 Rochdale RUFC
Despite several regular first teamers being unavailable Dale travelled to a sunny Southport with a side bristling with talent and far too good for the hosts on the day.
The first half was a test for the visitors as Southport threw everything but the kitchen sink at them with 80% of the play in Dale’s half and a lot of that in the final 22. Try as they might Southport could not get close to scoring such was the dogged defence led by Tom Callaghan, Beltus Nonleh and Gui Desousa in the pack and fine catching and return kicking by Jimmy Flitcroft and James Duffy. The eventful half saw Desousa being yellow carded by the eager ref and then minutes later after clearing from their own line Tom Callaghan received a heavy tackle which dislocated his shoulder he was led from the field for a trip to Southport Infirmary.
Dale battled on with sub Ben Coulter in the front row for Callaghan, in a rare foray into the Southport half Dale looked strong with returning Travis Townsend and Duffy linking well the home side were caught offside and Duffy stepped up to slot home the penalty kick from 30 yds. 3-0 after 30 mins. From the re-start Southport were given a penalty almost 40 yds out which was converted to make it 3-3 the game had come alive and with Dale pressing penalties it gave the visitors lots of ground but not many scoring chances half time saw the score level at 3-3. Early in the second half Dale were moving the ball well and Townsend took a wide pass and was far too quick for the Southport defence as he crashed in at the corner for Dale’s 1st try ably converted by Duffy who really had his kicking boots on 10-3.
Foster came off replaced by Harry Hayes having put in a good shift. Good catch by Blair ‘Bomber’ Henry was returned down the line for a chase by Flitcroft a sliced clearance kick saw Dale with a line out on the home 22 and up rose Chris Hodgkinson to take the ball and pass out to Duffy who found Dom Macklin and reversed the pass to Hodgkinson who steamed through the Southport defence for Dale’s 2nd try, a difficult touchline conversion by Duffy saw the score advance to 17-3. The home side needed a score and they soon found the try line with a good passing move which saw their young winger go over for a nice try the kick hit the upright and bounced out seeming to sum up Southport’s day 17-8.
With the Dale pack winning most encounters, ball for the backs was plentiful and Jack Green, Townsend and Flitcroft all had good breaks, as the ball crept into the 5 metre area the defence became more and more desperate and after the 4th offence in as many minutes the ref’s patience ran out and he awarded Dale a penalty try 24-8. The scrum encounters became more intense as Southport failed to win even their own put ins and the ref had to intervene after something was said and Gui Desousa reacted badly having been yellow carded in the 1st half he had to be careful, but the referee warned both sides and the game carried on. Eventually Southport got within kicking range and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts 24-11 with 5 mins to go.
Tom Hindle returns from a long lay off.
Dale pressed again looking for the 4th bonus point try and as the ball came wide to Blair Henry he chipped over the defence only to be cynically flattened by his opposite number, free kick no yellow card. Dale lose the ball at the line out on the home 5 metre line and Southport hoist a massive clearance kick, unlucky for them straight to Jimmy Flitcroft who jinked through several tackles and passed wide to the supporting Townsend who is high tackled after he has released his pass again penalty but no card ! Southport are riding their luck and have a final push up field in probably their best move the centre Myers picks up a short inside pass and scores near the posts to make it 24-16 at the final whistle. Dale well deserved winners and on another day could have run in several more tries, James Duffy had a great day with the boot and happily Tom Callaghan was able to join the rest of the team on the bus home! Next week our visitors are Fleetwood at Moorgate Ave 3pm kick off.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.
Photography by TMS Taylor.