Match Report by Jim Dixon
Prior to the match Portsmouth kicked off proceedings with a very well attended Presidents Lunch enjoyed by all who attended with an excellant Christmas Dinner prepared by former 1st.XV player Jimmy Martin.
Portsmouth welcomed Old Cranleighans to Rugby Camp for the first time for a few seasons with the news that Head Coach Gareth Richards was having to isolate at home due to Covid as were his other coaches.
Old Cranleighans got proceedings under way and Portsmouth were straight on the attack taking the ball deep into O.C’s territory. A Portsmouth pass was intercepted by O.C’s but they knocked on giving a penalty to Portmouth. From the ensuing lineout a good run from Apisai Deucu in which he took several defenders with him, saw O.C’s give away a penalty and a further 10 metres for back chat. A line out on the 5 metre line saw Portsmouth take good ball and set up a driving maul resulting in a try awarded to prop Bradley Atkins. Gareth Davies added the extras and Portsmouth were in the lead with about 10 minutes gone. From the re-start O.C’s were again penalised enabling the Home side to clear the ball upfield with a good touch kick from Davies. Portsmouth then lost centre Myles Whitenham after a tackle. He was replaced by Tom Hopkins. Portsmouth were then able to steal a couple of O.C’s lineout balls through No.7 Deucu, taking them into opposition territory. Yet another O.C’s penalty saw a good touch kick from Davies in which No.8 Aaraon Beesley took a good line out ball and he drove through defenders to score out wide. Davies was yet again on target taking the score to 14 – 0. O.C’s were not done yet and after a period of pressure they managed to drive over the try line for their first try taking the score to 14 – 5 with about 30 minutes gone. From the re-start Portmouth full back,Mark Ovens, back from injury, gathered the ball and side stepped his way to the try line, showing what Portsmouth had been missing. Again Davies was on target with the conversion and the lead extended to 21 – 5 with about 5 minutes of the half remaining. Portsmouth were soon on the attack again with Ovens catching a kick from O.C’s who threw a long pass to Centre Ravudolo Miteli who in turn passed to Tom Hopkins who turned on the gas from inside his own half, to side step and outpace the defenders for a very well taken try out wide giving them a bonus point with the 4th.try, This time Davies couldn’t hit the target but the lead was now 26 – 5 and the half time whistle went shortly after.
The second half got under way and shortly after the re-start they lost flanker Deucu to a yellow card for an offside offence. O.C’s were now playing with a bit more purpose and putting the home side’s scrum under a bit of pressure but yet another penalty against them gave Portsmouth a chance to clear their lines with a good touch kick by Davies giving Portsmouth a line out on the half way line. More pressure, this time from Portsmouth, saw a good kick ahead by Davies being chased and caught by winger Scott Weatherhead who touched down wide out. Initially it looked as though the ball had crossed the posts but one touch judge indicated it had but the other seemed to unaware of what was going on and the Official also didn’t clearly indicate a conversion so although it was taken as O.K. later discusion said it wasn’t so the score was changed to 31 – 5. This was a rather pleasing try as Portsmouth were defending one minute and scoring the next as well as being a man down. O.C’s then lost a player to a yellow card for a scrum infringement as flanker Deucu came back on having served his 10 minutes. From a scrum Portsmouth took the ball on the halfway line and good handling by the backs eventually saw the ball with Ovens and he scored his second try out wide. This took the score to 36 – 5 with the conversion just missing. More pressure from Portsmouth saw O.C’s conceed a couple of penalties as the home side strove to add to their score but eventually time defeated them as the full time whistle went.
With yet again changes made from last week’s team, the whole squad really stepped up to the mark and they thoroughly deserved their win. The back row in particular played a big part in this victory, with No.8 Beesley making some good runs, and both flankers giving the opposition plenty of grief with their aggressive play. Tom Hopkins also showed good pace in the centre and with Mark Ovens back at full back they were able to show some good attacking moves.
The disappointing thing was that none of the Coaching staff were present to witness this display.
Next week sees Portsmouth travel the short distance to Trojans who lost to Petersfield 18 – 10. Trojans are in 7th. place and Portsmouth remain in 11th. place on 13 points. This will be the last game before the Christmas break, hopefully giving those with some injury niggles time to recover for the re-start in the New Year,