Saturday 21st October 2017.
1st Team match report by Jim Dixon
PRFC 62 – 20 Warlingham
Portsmouth continued their rich vein of bonus point wins with a comprehensive defeat of Warlingham at Rugby Camp by 10 tries to 3, despite losing 3 key players to injury following the Bowl Quarter final win against U.S. last Friday. Mark Ovens, knee, Curtis Barnes, HIA and Daz Leggott, groin, were all unable to take part. This meant a slight re-arrangement to the usual selection with Gareth Fitzpatrick moving from No.6 to the second row, Matt Farnes taking the No.10 spot and Suli Caucau moving from the centre to the wing.
Simon Morgan and Gareth Richards formed the centre partnership with Stewart Davies continuing as Captain in the absence of Darren Crabb. With 3 tries for No.8 Rhys Bowen, 2 each for Suli Caucau and No.7 Anthony Fooks and 1 apiece for prop Adam Parks, No.10 Matt Farnes and scrum half Alex Duffus together with 7 conversions by Simon Morgan in extremely conditions, it was a very good performance by the whole squad.
Warlingham kicked off the match playing with a gale at their backs. Portsmouth were soon under pressure and with 5 minutes of the game gone their efforts were rewarded with a try by their centre who touched down under the posts. Surprisingly the kick missed with the score 0 – 5. Portsmouth were soon showing their intent however and a good move involving the backs saw Caucau cross wide out for his first try. Morgans’ kick into the gale was successful so Portsmouth went into a 7 – 5 lead on 8 minutes. Another good attacking move saw winger Whitehouse run the ball from his 22 metre line to the Opposition 22 before being tackled into touch. From a scrum following a lineout infringement by Warlingham Portsmouth won good ball and eventually No.9 Duffus forced his way over to dot down under the posts, Morgans’ kick was successful and the home side increased their lead to 14 – 5 with 13 minutes gone. Following a scrum Portsmouth were then penalised and Warlingham closed the gap to 14 -8 on 16 minutes. Another good Warlingham attack was cancelled out by a try stopping tackle by Duffus. Following a Warlingham scrum, Portsmouth won the ball and a good drive to the line saw No.8 Bowen score his first try of the afternoon. Another conversion by Morgan saw the home side increase their lead to 21 – 8 after 24 minutes. Ian French then came off to be replaced at prop by Ryan Wilkie making his first start for about 3 weeks. From a penalty against Warlingham, Portsmouth made good ground from the scrum and moving the ball through hands to Caucau who sped through for his second try. Morgan was again on target with the conversion so the score was now 28 – 8 and Portsmouth had secured their 4th.try bonus point with about 10 minutes of the half remaining. Another good Portsmouth attack was ended when the final pass to Whitehouse was adjudged to have gone forward. Portsmouth were soon on the scoreboard again when following a 5 metre scrum they were able to drive Warlingham back over the try line and Bowen scored his 2nd try this time the conversion missed and the score was now 33 – 8 with about a couple of minutes left before the half ended.
Warlingham started the second half much as they did the first, by taking the game to Portsmouth who were now playing with the wind at their backs. A kick to touch by Portsmouth went directly into touch giving Warlingham a scrum from which they managed to work the ball deep into the Portsmouth half and their efforts were rewarded with a good try which was not converted. After 5 minutes of the re-start the score was 33 – 13. A good touch kick by Farnes saw Portsmouth take the
ball deep into the Opposition half and from the Warlingham line out Rob Gicquel got up high to steal the ball which was quickly moved away but although they crossed the line they were penalised for an earlier offence. Shortly after Fitzgerald had to come off with a dead leg and he was replaced in the second row by French. Will Brook then had to come off with an ankle injury to be replaced by Jack Easterbrook. From a Portsmouth scrum on the half way line the home side made good ground with some slick interpassing and eventually Fooks crossed for a try. The conversion missed and the score now stood at 38 – 13 with 13 minutes of the second half gone. Warlingham showed they were not done by any means and after good pressure they scored a try under the posts which was converted making the score 38 – 20 with about 20 minutes remaining. From a penalty to Portsmouth they were able to take the ball deep into Opposition territory and from a lineout they were able to move the ball out to flyhalf Farnes who scored wide out. The conversion missed and the score was now 43 – 20.after 27 minutes. Shortly after Matt Farnes came off to be replaced by Lee Chandler at No.10. From another good Portsmouth scrum they were able to get a good drive going and Bowen touched down for his 3rd.try. This time the conversion was successful and the score was now 50 – 20 on 32 minutes. 5 minutes later another good move involving the backs was finished off by No.7 Fooks with his second try of the match, Morgan was again on target and the score now stood at 57 – 20. Shortly after prop Wilkie had to leave the field with an ankle injury and as Portsmouth had used all their bench they had to finish the game with 14 players. In a final attacking move they found a good touch deep in the Warlingham 22 and managed to steal the lineout. The ball eventually found its way to prop Adam Parks who galloped over from 10 metres out to score a good try. The conversion again missed and the score was now 62 – 20 and the final whistle went a minute later.
Although the wind made handling and kicking difficult it was at least fairly dry, and Portsmouth adapted to the conditions very well, especially in the first half when they were playing into a gale force wind. It was also pleasing to see that despite the changes made through injury last week the team gelled well together which is a tribute to the coaching staff. This win still leaves them in 2nd place on 27 points, behind Old Emanual who beat Basingstoke 65 – 5 and are on 29 points. Old Cranleighans beat Petersfield 48 – 7 and are still in 3rd place on 26 points, although Portsmouth have the best point’s difference so far. So it is still very close in the top 3 which means nothing can be taken for granted. Next week sees Portsmouth away to New Milton who lost on Saturday to Old Tiffinians 37 – 26. They are in 10th position.