New Milton vs Portsmouth, Saturday 25th November 2023

New Milton vs Portsmouth, Saturday 25th November 2023

Match Report by Jim Dixon.

Portsmouth travelled through the New Forest for this re-arranged fixture with New Milton, cancelled earlier due to a wet pitch. As I was driving down to the game I was thinking of the last time I had been here which was probably playing for the Vets. I then realised that that was over 30 years ago so no wonder I couldn’t remember the way! In those days the Vets played every week and if we had a cancelled game John Smith, who was not only Vets Capt. but also the club fixture secretary, so he always made sure we got a fixture. We played New Milton, Worthing and Tottonians more frequently than any other team but that is for another day!

As this was meant to be a blank Saturday some of the 1’s players had made other arrangements so it was a rather different side that turned out.

On a very still and cold but sunny day the first thing that was noticed was the very faint pitch marking, no technical areas and no spectator barrier. There where occasions when the home side spectators were standing in the field of play as were their coaches who should have known better, New Milton kicked off and with the action being confined to between the 22’s it was Portsmouth who got on the scoreboard first when they were awarded a penalty just to the side of the posts and outside the 22. With the regular kickers not playing, kicking duties were given to scrum half Tom Sandserson who duly obliged giving Portsmouth the lead after about 10 minutes of play, 0-3. Portsmouth had a further chance to score but a 3 on 1 chance was lost when the ball carrier cut back inside and was tackled. However Portsmouth were getting into their stride and from a charged down kick by second row Matt Austin he was able to follow up and gather to score close to the touch line. Sanderson was successful with the touch line conversion and their lead was extended to 0-10.

New Milton then came close to scoring but an excellent tackle by hooker Brad Atkins which resulted in the ball going forward, gave Portsmouth a scrum close to the Portsmouth try line. Portsmouth won clean ball and passed to fly half Lee Chandler who cleared to touch. However the Ref deemed that he was outside the dead ball line when he took the ball, faint lines!, so the scrum was now with New Milton. Portsmouth were able to disrupt the scrum and won the ball back making ground to just over the 22. Portsmouth eventually worked their way into the New Milton 22 but then lost control of the ball. This enabled New Milton to set up a counter attack and they ran the ball well to score close to the posts, the conversion was good and the score was now 7-10. With about 5 minutes left Portsmouth set up a good attack which went across the field and back and eventually Ali Macdonald crossed wide out to extend their lead to 7-17 as the conversion by Sanderson was good. However that seemed to spur New Milton into their own attack and with just minutes of the half remaining they scored under the posts with a converted try, closing the gap to 14-17 as the half time whistle went.

The second half started with New Milton setting up an attack from the re-start and some poor defensive work by Portsmouth saw the home side score under the posts. Amazingly the conversion was charged down by Matt Austin so the lead was only 19-17. With both sides trying to get the upper hand the game was getting rather scrappy and disjointed although Portsmouth were able to gain territory through some good hard runs by the two Props Avis and Parks-Dare and also Aaron Beesley. He seemed to make it his job to batter the opposition every time he had the ball. Consequently Portsmouth were getting the better of the territorial battle. There was one occasion when the Portsmouth pack had set up a good drive about 10-12 metres from the try line and thought they had crossed for the winning score. The Ref gave the try but then realised that they had only got as far as the 5 metre line so the score was obviously disallowed.

New Milton were awarded a penalty just inside the Portsmouth half but the kick fell short. From the re-start Portsmouth attacked again and good work by winger Connor Charlton saw him race down the wing evading a few tackles with very little space to move but he was eventually tackled into touch close to the New Milton 22. Portsmouth had reorganised their scrum with Elliott Worrall moving from No.8 to the 2nd row and Matt Austin going from there to the back row and Aaaron Beesley going to No.8 from No.6. This seemed to give them a much better balance and they certainly were better able to shove the New Milton pack around. The reorganised scrum was certainly causing New Milton problems and they gave a series of penalties away. With time ticking away and another penalty to Portsmouth, Beesley grabbed the ball and determinably took a tap penalty quickly, setting off on a charge to the line and nothing was going to stop him. He crashed over for the winning score with Sanderson adding the conversion as the final whistle went as soon as the ball sailed through the posts. Portsmouth had won by 24 – 19.

Talking to Liam Davis after the match he commented that he was determined to put right the wrongs of his performance last week which he did with some good carries. This was also true of Adam Parks-Dare and Brad Atkins. The same could be said of other players also but the game was rather messy throughout and having some last minute changes probably did not help to the cohesion the side has shown in past games. This was a much needed win after the disappointing performance of last week.
This result sees Portsmouth in on 26 points. Next weeks opponents, Ellingham & Ringwood, are in on 22 points after beating Eastleigh 24 – 31. so that promises to be another tight game.

Liam Avis, Brad Atkins, Adam Parks-Dare.
Matt Austin, Sam Foster.
Aaron Beesley, Anthony Fooks, Elliott Worrall,
Tom Sanderson, Lee Chandler.
Will Dalziel, Ali Macdonald, Leo Wall, Connor Charlton.
Brad Jewer.
Bench= Jordan Cracknell, Farrell Walters,
Harvey Chapman.