Portsmouth vs North Dorset, Papa Johns Community Counties 1 Plate Competition Round 1, Saturday 1st April 2023

Portsmouth vs North Dorset, Papa Johns Community Counties 1 Plate Competition Round 1, Saturday 1st April 2023

Portsmouth 15 – 17 North Dorset

Match Report by Jim Dixon

With all the recent rain it was only the Vets pitch that was deemed playable, and that was only after a concerted effort by Club Members who forked the puddled areas to get rid of standing water. Despite heavy rain before the warm up began it remained dry and breezy for the remainder of the afternoon.
The surface was, however, very muddy and it was obviously going to be a day for the forwards.
With both teams making changes to their usual starting XV’s it was Portsmouth that got proceedings underway, playing with a steady breeze behind them.
They went straight into attack mode and camped themselves deep in the Dorset half. Connor Charlton made good ground after catching a Dorset clearance kick. His pass to Brad Jewer saw the winger have a good run before passing to the supporting Fooks who kept the momentum going and eventually the ball found its way to Ollie Simpson who crashed over for the first score of the match, the conversion missed and Portsmouth found themselves leading 5 – 0. Portsmouth continued to keep Dorset pinned in their half but were unable to convert pressure to points. It was North Dorset who scored the next try through their forwards who were a pretty big unit. The conversion missed and the score was now 5 a-piece. A scoring chance was missed when Charlton made a good break, but possibly an earlier pass could have resulted in a score, but he delayed just a bit too long. North Dorset got penalised for obstructing a Portsmouth player. Morgan lined up the kick and dissected the posts giving Portsmouth an 8 – 5 lead. Shortly after this Portsmouth then further extended their lead following a good break by Morgan who then passed to Sam Olie who, despite the muddy conditions raced away to score their second try. Morgan was again on target and the lead was now 15-5 and the half time whistle went shortly after.

The second half started with Adam Parks making a much welcomed return to the first team following a nasty leg injury 2 seasons ago. He came on to the back row in place of Aaron Cox. Where Portsmouth were the more dominant team in the first half it was Dorset who seemed to suddenly realised that their pack could be more effective and with the following breeze that had now increased slightly in strength, began to exert pressure on the Portsmouth pack, causing the home side all sorts of problems. There was one of those rare moments in rugby when the Portsmouth scrum half was penalised for a crooked put in which gave Dorset the opportunity to build on their earlier score and they scored an unconverted try taking the score to 15-10. Dorset were now in a dominant mood and from a scrum in the Portsmouth 22 their No.7 broke clear to run through almost unapposed to score under the posts. The conversion gave them a 15-17 lead. The second half was a rather dour affair with both sides tiring due to the conditions underfoot. Portsmouth spent most of the time defending their try line as they found it difficult to get into the Dorset half. It was only in the last 15-20 minutes that they began to get some sort of parity at scrum time and managed to get into the opposition half with the Portsmouth pack being a bit more robust. Dorset’s main strength was in their pack and in conditions as they were, a driving maul is almost impossible to stop legally with the ground being so soft. Despite the late rally by Portsmouth they were unable to get that winning score and the final whistle went with victory to the visitors 15-17.
A disappointing result for Portsmouth,who despite the conditions had run with the ball in hand well in the first half, there were some very tired bodies coming of the pitch. On the plus side Sam Foster put in a good performance, stealing the odd line out ball and making some good runs. Brad Atkins and Anthony Fooks also put in a hard shift and Adam Parks certainly made is second half appearance count with some powerful runs, always looking after the ball in the tackle. There is no game next week as the next match for Portsmouth is to be determined with the draw for the Challenge Cup still to be made. That match is scheduled to be played on Saturday 15th. April.