Match Report by Jim Dixon
Portsmouth had a request from Havant 2’s to play their scheduled match for Saturday, on Friday evening under floodlights. The coaches put the question to the players and they readily agreed. The last time we played under floodlights was a few seasons ago at Burnaby Road against U.S Portsmouth in a Cup match which we won. The atmosphere that night was really good with a decent crowd present. There was hope for a similar occasion. There was just 1 change from the original selection with loose head prop Khatib, crying off having been knocked off his bike. Shaken up but not hurt. His place as taken by Rhys Bowen who as originally on the bench. He in turn was replaced by Greg Hoolihan.
Portsmouth got the game underway and Havant kicked back which saw Portsmouth run the ball back. Eventually the ball went into touch giving Havant a line out. Portsmouth managed to steal the ball and Morgan kicked the ball into touch near the half way line.. Again Portsmouth managed to steal the ball and a kick found touch close to the Havant 22. With yet another line out steal the ball found its way to full back Solanki who set off on a good run which eventually saw him tackled into touch. The ensuing line out was again stolen by Portsmouth. Havant managed to get their hands on the ball and set up an attack deep into the Portsmouth half. Desperate defensive work by Portsmouth kept them out for a while but eventually pressure told and they scored close to the posts. The try was converted and they led 7 – 0. Portsmouth were by now getting used to the pace of the artificial pitch and with ideal running conditions and hardly any breeze they began to set up some good handling in the backs. From one such move a try should have been scored but the final pass failed to find its target and went into touch. Portsmouth kept Havant in their 22 for a period helped by a string of penalties. Another good scoring chance went begging when the final pass should have resulted in a score but again the final pass failed to find its target. Havant soon hit back and with a good 3’s movement they managed to stretch the Portsmouth defence to score near to the touch line. The conversion missed and they now led 12 – 0. Another good Portsmouth attack came to nothing with a knock on and the half time whistle went..
The second half started with Dan Gates coming on to replace Howell-Williams on the wing. Portsmouth got onto the score board when Havant were penalised for handling on the ground and Morgan converted his kick taking the score to 12 – 3. Shortly after that Portsmouth won another kickable penalty and Morgan was again on target with his kick, taking the score to 12 -6. Havant where soon back on the attack and only some good defensive work by Portsmouth followed by a good turn over enabled them to kick the ball into touch thus relieving the pressure. Following a period of pressure from Havant they managed a good long kick down field which was chased by a Havant player with Portsmouth in hot pursuit. As the ball bounced into the ingoal area the Portsmouth player then pushed the Havant player off the ball resulting in the Ref. awarding a penalty try and a yellow card to the Portsmouth player. This took the score to 19 – 6. Shortly after that a 5 metre scrum to Havant saw them drive over the try line for another score this time unconverted but taking the score to 24 – 6. Havant then managed another score from a good 3’s move which saw them create and overlap and the scored out wide. The conversion missed and the now led 29 – 6. A kick from Havant was caught by Solanki who ran the ball back from deep in his half with a weaving run into the Havant 22. Havant were then penalised for slapping the ball down from a pass by Portsmouth. A kick to touch from the resultant penalty saw Portsmouth spin the ball wide and eventually Sam Foster crossed for their first try. Morgan converted and the score was now 29 – 13. Portsmouth then seemed to up their game and a massive drive from the pack saw them drive Havant back many metres. Despite their efforts they could not add to their score line and the final whistle went with an victory to Havant 29 – 13.
Unfortunately Portsmouth where architects of their own downfall because they were unable to keep hold of the ball in 3 or 4 scoring opportunities. Whilst it took them 10 to 15 minutes to adjust to the pace of the game on an artificial pitch, once they had then the backs showed some good handling and running with the ball. Overall it was an exciting game with the match flowing end to end. The atmosphere was great as was the crowd with both sets of supporters making a lot of noise. It was all helped no doubt by a very still, dry night allowing some very good rugby being played by both teams.
This result sees \Havant move up to 4th in the League table on 36 points with Portsmouth staying in 6th. place on 23 points. On Saturday leaders Jersey beat Gosport and Fareham 75 – 5. to retain top spot. Eastleigh move up to second with an 87 – 10 win over Petersfield.
There are no games next week so Portsmouth’s next fixture is on Saturday 26th, November at home to Alton. They beat Bournemouth 2’s 17 – 12. on Saturday.