Portsmouth’s good form came to an end this week, as PRFC lost 34-46 to 7th place Old Tonbridgians (OTs). S&C rugby correspondent William Payne reports.
Portsmouth had to make a few last-minute changes to the team this week, with Captain Luke Richardson unavailable due to work commitments, Curtis Barnes still out due to a head injury sustained in training, and Dan Neville unavailable due to moving house.
5 minutes in and the OT’s winger collected a loose ball deep in the Portsmouth half to bring the side 7 points up.
Portsmouth closed the gap after a short period of pressure. PRFC won a penalty which Simon Morgan converted, bringing the score to 3-7 after 18 minutes played.
The OTs fought back to score their second try, bringing controversy to the spectators as many felt the pass seemed to be forward. A failed conversion left the score at 3-12, 33 minutes played.
At 38 minutes in, Portsmouth found fuel in the tank as full back Davies hit an excellent line to break through and score near the posts, making it 8-12. Morgan added the 2 points, bringing it to 10-12.
The opposition bounced back almost instantly, scoring another and bringing the score to 10-17 just before the half time whistle.
General verdict on the first half: Portsmouth played some good rugby, but lacked defensively when it came to making the crucial tackles. Against the OTs tough opposition, Portsmouth needed to dig deep to pull back the second half.
Under 10 minutes in to the restart and the OTs came back fighting to increase their point tally to 22 after scoring, but failing to convert – bringing it to 10-22.
The Pompey tackling once again just wasn’t up to scratch, allowing the Old Tonbridgians to score and convert – 10-29. There was even more woe for our lads when the OTs scored from another loose ball, making the score 10-34 to the visitors.
Portsmouth’s determination was far from spent, as PRFC unleashed their trademark Pompey Power to see No.7 Fooks cross for a good score. Morgan converted, making it 17-34 at 26 minutes gone of the second half.
The OTs were not prepared to yield and 2 minutes later they went over again making it 17-39.
Fighting back, Fooks was soon on the ball again and went over for his second try, and after a missed conversion the score was 22-39.
From a lineout, Luke Peters managed to steal the ball and offload to Matt Farnes, who crossed over and made the score 27-39 after a missed kick and only 8 minutes left to play. Matt Farnes secured Portsmouth’s 4th try, and even though the result wasn’t looking good, they took the bonus point.
But the OTs were not done, scoring their 8th try and converting soon after. The score was now 27-46.
With seconds remaining, Portsmouth refused to give up before the final whistle. Morgan went over and scored to make the final score 34-46 after a good conversion.
After Portsmouth’s previous games this year, this week’s result was very disappointing for the fans, but the game was unarguably a tough one. The result leaves Portsmouth in 9th place with 32 points, yet as Andover had won their game, the gap was closed to 9 points. As there are only 6 points between 5th and 8th, the mid table is looking very interesting.
This Saturday 4th February, there is no game for the 1st XV, so the Rugby Read will be back the week after.
Fans need not be idle this weekend though, as Portsmouth RFC are showing the opening games of the 6 nations tournament at the Club: Scotland vs Ireland at 14:25 and England vs France at 16:50. This Sunday, in addition to showing the Italy vs Wales game at 14.00, the Club are also hosting a carvery – check out their website for details.
Photography by Lesley Gicquel.