Portsmouth vs Bognor, Saturday 2nd March 2024

Portsmouth vs Bognor, Saturday 2nd March 2024

This fixture was originally down to be played at Rugby Camp, but due to a Bognor pitch being unfit back in November the game was switched to Rugby Camp thus making the return match having to be played at Bognor. Unfortunately the Bognor pitch was deemed unfit and with all of the pitches at Rugby Camp unplayable this week end the game was switched to Littlehampton Rugby Club. Fortunately their 1’s were playing away at Midhurst so that freed up the only pitch available. The pitch is located at the end of a fairly new housing development with views across a valley to Arundel Castle. The pitch is on a slight rise so it had drained pretty well, as the ditches around showed. It was also rather exposed and there was a cold wind blowing
up the pitch making the afternoon feel pretty cold despite the sun shining. The players had to return to Bognor’s clubhouse for meals and drinks as the venue they were using had no kitchen or bar! There was just toilets and changing rooms.

Portsmouth had to make a last minute change with Leo Wall crying off suffering with a stomach upset. Harvey Field was promoted from the bench and his place was taken by Brad Jewer.
Bognor got proceeding underway with Portsmouth playing with the wind behind them but up the slope. Portsmouth secured possession and kicked the ball up field, Tom Sanderson followed up the kick which was collected by Bognor and as they kicked the ball back Sanderson was close enough to charge the kick down, follow up and touch down for the first try of the afternoon. He was also successful with the conversion giving Portsmouth a 0-7 lead after about a minute or so.

Portsmouth took play back upfield and eventually won a lineout in the Bognor 22. unfortunately they were unable to secure the ball which was kicked back down field. A good reply kick by Stewart Davies went into touch deep in the Bognor half. They managed to set up a good attack but the final pass went straight into touch. A 10 metre lineout to Portsmouth went astray giving Bognor a chance to set up another attack. Nothing came from that and Portsmouth then set up an attack of their own with Stewart Davies making good ground before being stopped short of the line. A scrum to Portsmouth saw them drive to the line and eventually prop Liam Avis got the ball and scored their second try. Sanderson was again on target and they now led 0-14.

Portsmouth then had to endure a period of pressure from Bognor when they camped very close to the try line but good defensive work by Portsmouth kept them out. Bognor had two or three big rangy forwards who were causing problems to the visitors but the defensive line held firm. Fooks then came off to be replaced by Dan Spencer. Lee Chandler also had to leave the field with a knock to his leg – he was replaced by Dan Gates. Stewart took the 10 position vacated by Chandler and Gates went to the centre.

Steward was again at the centre of a defensive play and he found a good touch taking play from one 22 to the other. Portsmouth then lost Bryn Rainford when he received a cut to his forehead which required stitches. Fookes came back on to take his place. A very good attacking move by Portsmouth saw them move the ball swiftly across the backs and as they looked to continue the move they suddenly passed back to Sam Olie who took a good line and ran through to score close to the posts. Sanderson was again on target and the score was now 0-21 The half time whistle went shortly after. Portsmouth were not enjoying the best of the lineouts despite sometimes winning opposition ball. It was not clear if this was due to the wind disrupting the flight or timing issues.

The second half got underway with Harvey Field making way for Brad Jewer. Shortly after Portsmouth were down to 14 when Stewart Davies got yellow carded. With play mainly between the 22’s a scrum in the Portsmouth 22 saw Bognor moved the ball through the backs and eventually scored out wide, the conversion missed so the score was now 5-21. The second half had become a bit disrupted and messy and although the Portsmouth scrum was going well it seemed as if the important 4th. try was never going to come despite a lot of pressure from them.

Suddenly Portsmouth seemed to wake up and a good attack saw the ball get into Dan Spencer’s hands close to the 22. He took off, breaking several tackles on his way to the try line to score close to the posts. Sanderson was on target and the score was now 5-28, giving Portsmouth that all important bonus point.

This seemed to stir Portsmouth into action but they were unable to add to the score. A good bit of defensive work by Harvey Field which saw him reach out to intercept a Bognor pass with one hand and turn defence into attack which enabled Portsmouth to take play back down the pitch. Portsmouth were again unlucky when from a kick downfield Brad Jewer followed through and gathered the ball but was just tackled before he could offload to a supporting player and the ball went into touch. Another good attack by Portsmouth saw them run the ball deep into the Bognor half before Bognor got penalised. Time was almost up so Portsmouth took a penalty kick but the kick missed and the full time whistle went as the ball went dead.

This was a satisfying win after the loss earlier in the season. Fooks made some good runs showing good leg drive as he often had one or two players trying to hold him but he was still able to make ground. Liam Glazebrook again had a good game and the backs handled well with ball in hand. The forwards also performed well but the lineout needs sorting.
This result sees Portsmouth stay in 5th place on 46 points with Gosport & Fareham in 4th on 50 points. Next week sees Portsmouth take on Andover at Rugby Camp. Andover beat Trojans 59-22 so it promises to be a hard game. They are currently in 2nd.place on 69 points. Don’t forget fixtures are now 3.00pm kick off.