With injuries and players being called up to the 1st XV including talismanic hooker John Nichols there were a few last minute changes to what was a very strong side that was eager to build on the previous three league games and turn out a performance
A late addition to the side on Saturday was young Oliver Gibb who was pulled up the club to take his place in the front row against a big visiting pack and with his low centre of gravity and deceptive strength for his size he was more than a match for his opposite number, great effort!!! I must also mention Kevin FRENCH who stepped up to replace John NICHOLS at hooker and he did a cracking job in the scrum and at lineout time.
It was the home side to kick off proceedings and from the off it was a very physical game that both sides were up for. The opening exchanges were played between the 22 metre lines with neither side breaking under pressure.
The pompey pack were more than a match for a larger visiting pack who would of expected to dominate at the scrum as well as in the lineout however with some excellent defensive plays it was a spoiled lineout that allowed Jason Crabb to kick the ball through only for our own flyer Tim HAZELDINE to chase it down and score in the corner with a great solo effort, the conversion was a tough one but slotted beautifully by Sandy Duffus.
The away side were stunned and the knew they were in for a fight when their coach was quoted saying on the sidelines “We aren’t going to have this all our own way today!!” and he was right, none the less it was the travelling side that exerted the pressure as we expected they would and they pinned us in our 22 and when under pressure we couldn’t control and clear our lines and they scored in the corner which was well converted to level the score 7-7!!
The next phase of play some strong open field play from our backline as scrum half Sam Paine provided puppet master fly half Ollie ANSELL with good ball for our centres to make good yards across the gain line to be supported well by the back row combo of Will Brock, Jason Crabb and Rob GICQUEL.
The next score came from the home side after some strong forward running from Brock in particular eventually saw us camped in the 22 and the support play saw Kevin FRENCH released just inside the 22 with eyes for the posts much like he had the previous week against Newbury. It was not meant to be however but pompey maintained possession and the whitewash was in touching distance. It was a high tackle from stoke and a yellow card that allowed the pompey pack to call for a scrum and set up the platform for Will Brock to score off quick second phase ball near the corner the conversion was close and the score was 12-7.
The game ebbed and flowed and a suspect score from a knock on after a brilliant Danny HARRIS tap tackle saw Basingstoke cross the line once more our hearts were in our mouths as the kick looked to be good only for it to hit the upright and miss 12-12!!! The travellers began to exert some pressure that pompey were more than equal to and it was a Sandy Duffus interception that went the distance to score in the corner a tough conversion was unsuccessful and the half ended 17-12.
The break saw a change in the backline as Graham BUTTERWORTH laced his boots up after a neck injury that has kept him out some time to replace Danny HARRIS, with butts in the centres Sandy Duffus moved to 15 to cover Danny and Ben moved from 12 to 13.
The second half was a blur but better support play in the forwards and not going in 1s and 2s paid dividends as we made progress towards the try line running off fly half Ollie ANSELL it was a series of well worked moves and secure lineout ball that allowed Tim HAZELDINE to cross the line for the second time in the match Sam Paine stepped up for the kick but once again a tough angle saw it go wide 22-12.
As expected the away side came right back at us and they had some strong runners in the back row that saw them make some real distance over the gain line. They scored 2 more unconverted tries and a successful penalty to take the lead 25-22 going into the final period of the game
Despite being behind heads didn’t drop and we saw the game was there for the taking some excellent crash ball from Graham BUTTERWORTH combined with some great support play from winger Stephen Gee and back row combo of Brock, Moon and Crabb saw us edge towards the stoke line.
It was a quick ball that was spun wide and then snapped back to Brock who was supported by Jason Crabb at the contact and his strength saw him cross the line to give the home side the lead, the conversion attempt was unsuccessful so the game remained tight at 27-25 with time ticking away.
We managed to hold on for the final whistle to claim the scalp the whole team had been looking for these last few weeks and the smile on everyone’s faces showed how much it meant.
Now for a cringe worthy, piss taking moment that if I’m honest I’m surprised Frenchie didn’t fine me for!! Anyone who knows me will know that last weekend I got engaged and it was in the huddle that I perked up and said in a slightly croaky voice “Cheers Lads best engagement present ever!!” It was the icing on the cake of a very good week for me and I wanted to share it……
Not without piss takers Butterworth and Ansell that were convinced that I had a lump in my throat when I said it!!!!
A great performance all round sees us travel to Tottonians next weekend on a high and looking to press on from recent performances as the league builds to its knock out phase.