Simon Newsham writes…
Portsmouth were always going to be in a battle against second placed high flying Warlingham in London 3SW but coach Gareth Richards was dealt a rotten hand in the week building up to the game. Several Injuries and positive COVID cases meant Richards had to call on veterans Ian French and John Nichols into the front row, also into the front row came eighteen year old Exeter University student David Howorth for his first team debut at loosehead prop. Without a recognised scrum-half, winger Sam Olie stepped into the role and didn’t look out of place. Flanker Anthony Fooks had to sit this one out having had stitches to a facial injury at training on Tuesday.
It was apparent from the first scrum that the hosts would struggle in the set piece with just seven minutes played Warlingham were awarded a penalty try when the Pompey scrum folded on their own goal line.
The visitors used the strong wind to their advantage in the first half with big kicks upfield gaining territory, Tommy Hare and Conner Chalton ran the ball back at them with every opportunity.
Portsmouth looked confident in open play but the Warlingham pack were big and well drilled in the scrum and their second try on twenty minutes came from a pick and go from the base of the scrum.
Portsmouth had a good spell of possession and continued to run the ball when they had it, some excellent carries from No8 Eliot Worrall centre Dan Gates got the hosts into some good attacking positions but each attempt seemed to end in a knock on and a scrum which Portsmouth had no answer to.
A further score five minutes before the break came from quick ball out of a scrum which made it 19-0 to the visitors. Portsmouth almost got on the board with half time approaching but were adjudged to be held up after getting over the Warlingham line. Half Time Portsmouth 0 Warlingham 19.
The second half began with good Pompey pressure and equally good defending when they had to, Howorth was outstanding in the pack, making tackle after tackle stopping the powerful forwards in their tracks. Portsmouth used the wind well, fly-half Jaz Solanki and full-back Tommy Hare’s touch kicks making good ground. Portsmouth were enjoying themselves despite the scoreline, veteran hooker Jon Nichols hit his target every time in the line outs and Sam Olie distributed the ball nicely out to the backs.
The hosts bright start to the second half was abruptly ended when another penalty try was awarded to Warlingham, Olie was shown the yellow card for repeated offside, the visitors opted for the scrum and the referee gave them the seven pointer.
Even though a man down Portsmouth battled on but a further unconverted try to the visitors was the final act in what was a very good performance by a team stricken with injuries and illness.
Coach Gareth Richards was philosophical about the defeat but considering they were down to the bare bones he said “I thought we deserved more from the game, we were unfortunate not to get on the scoreboard having played so well with a scratch team”.