It was a busy weekend for Tarleton RUFC as for the first time they are running three teams in competitive leagues.
With the First and Second XV being promoted last year the step up is going to prove challenging to the assembled Squad.
The Second XV were at home on Saturday against local rivals Southport and this match was going to be a benchmark for the standard of rugby they would be competing in.
Steve Gough had picked a strong squad, a mixture of youth and experience with some of the senior colts from last season stepping up to the mark.
Southport came with a big pack and from the kick off it looked as though their game plan was to use these players to create holes in the Tarleton defence for their backs to exploit. As they pressed towards the halfway line the ball was lost and quick thinking from Tarleton saw the ball hacked through and the chasing George Cook gathered the ball to score a good try which he converted.
Tarleton led 7-0 after 8 minutes and it was Southport again that started to creep their way upfield drawing in Tarleton defenders, one of whom entered the ruck from the side and from the resulting penalty Southport brought the score to 7-3.
The next try came after 18 minutes and it was from a dominant Tarleton scrum that good ball was released to the backs and a pass out wide to Dan Walker saw him go around the Southport defence to score a good try that was converted by George Cook (14-3).
Southport then applied a lot of pressure in the Tarleton 22 but a combination of good defence, poor passing and wayward line-outs kept them out. However, a wild kick from defence went to Southports’ James Wright who ran through two Tarleton defenders and bring the score to 14-8.
Tarleton then went down to 14 men as one of the forwards was binned for 10 minutes for 2 high tackles in succession. Southport capitalised on this extra man scoring a try from a scrum in Tarletons’22 which was converted to give them a 15-14 lead at half time.
Southport again pressurised from the re-start and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts after a Tarleton player had pulled a Southport player into a ruck. Fortunately for Tarleton the kick was pulled wide and Southport did not extend their lead.
Back up to 15 men Tarleton began to turn the screw and another solid scrum saw Tom Wignall break off the back, make good ground and with an inside off-load to Jamie Simpson created a good try. George Cook added the extras and Tarleton were back in front at 21-15.
The next try came from another solid scrum and the ball was flipped out to harry Cook who burst through the line at pace drawing in three defenders and creating a hole that with a well-timed pass saw Jamal Cantwell score a good try and increase the lead to 26-15.
Southport came again but yet more good defensive work from Tarleton neutralised the threat.
Tarleton were awarded a scrum from the re-start and a sharp break by George Cook saw him make good ground before passing to the ever present Jamie Simpson who went over for his second try. George Cook slotted the conversion and Tarleton led 33-15.
The final try was another one set up by the forwards dominance in the scrum and the ball was released to the charging ben Kelly who broke through the Southport defence and drew the full back to him before passing the ball to Jamal Cantwell who went over for his second try. The conversion by George Cook was good and Tarleton finished the game 40-15 victors.
A good start in a higher league and with the First XV winning a close encounter by 25-20 away at Aldwinians it was a good start to their respective campaigns.
The club was very pleased to be able to put out a 3rd team for the first time in its history and although they went down 39-5 away at Anselmians the return of 20+ players next week who weren’t available today means that the pressure for places is intense.