Rugby Read: Portsmouth Through to the Semi-Final

Image of Matt Farnes in Portsmouth V Old Colfeians. Credit: Lesley Gicquel.

Portsmouth RFC go through to the next round of the Intermediate cup after a close game against Old Colfeians and a final score of 36-33. After a hard-fought battle between both teams, will Pompey ever stop winning? S&C rugby correspondent William Payne reports.

Some changes had to be made to the side this week, with Dan Gates, Rob Gicquel and Luke Peters all out due to injuries, and James Kelly unable to play due to University commitments.

Old Colfeians kicked off and after a bit of back and forth kicking from both sides, the Colfeians won a lineout 5 metres from the Portsmouth try line. Employing their big forwards, the Colfeians drove the ball over for a successful conversion and a score of 0-7 after 6 minutes.

Portsmouth bounced back fast with a good kick ahead, seeing Matt Farnes collect and offload to Hoolihan, who went over near the posts. A clinical finish from Morgan saw the game tied at 7-7, 12 minutes played.

8 minutes later, Portsmouth won a line out with good attacking play from the team, seeing Fooks win the ball and being carried over by the pack. Good conversion, 14-7 to Portsmouth.

Old Colfeians brought down the scrum at 26 minutes in, and after a successful penalty kick Portsmouth increased their lead to 17-7.

Further pressure came from Portsmouth as Morgan gathered a kick wide out, and went over for another 5 points. The officials were indecisive for a moment following confusion about whether the kick went over or not, but their final decision saw the score remain at 22-7 with 6 minutes of the half remaining.

The Old Colfeians increased the pressure just before the half time whistle. Their scrum half took a quick tap and go penalty and scored under the posts to make it 22-14 ahead of the break.

Towards the end of the half Portsmouth’s defence seemed dominant, yet Rhys Bowen had to leave the field due to a rib injury, being replaced by Ian French. At the halfway mark, it seemed that if Portsmouth could maintain their excellent defensive work and mount an effective attack in the second half, the game would surely be theirs.

Portsmouth kicked off the second half and instantly saw a comeback from Old Colfeians after a series of penalties. This seemed to set the bar for both teams to give away silly penalties in the scrappiest part of the match.

Duffus and Farnes made way for Dan Neville at 10 and Richard Higgins on at full back, as Stewart Davies moved to centre and Morgan to 9. Almost immediately Fooks was yellow carded for a high tackle, seeing Portsmouth down to 14 men for 10 minutes.

With a man down, Portsmouth was forced to desperately defend whilst trying to cover all attacking options, and Old Colfeians managed to capitalise on the opportunity: going over to make it 22-21 after 23 minutes of the second half. Moments later, and with Portsmouth still a man down, the Old Colfeians took the lead with a score of 22 – 26.

When Anthony Fooks came back on, a good lineout saw Curtis Barnes turn on the after burners and speed through to score. Following his successful kick, the score was 29-26 to Portsmouth with 10 minutes left in an increasingly close game. Another excellent kick from Morgan brought the score to 36-26 with only 5 minutes left.

Increasingly urgent, the Old Colfeians dug deep and used up the last bit of juice in their tank, to be rewarded with a penalty try that made it 36-33 at the final whistle.

After a brilliant show of true resilience, this week Portsmouth powered on through to the semi-final, beating a team that, in previous seasons, might have had the upper hand.

This Saturday sees Portsmouth resume their league fixtures with a home game against the formidable Tonbridge Judians. With an excellent streak of 3 wins against tough opponents, fans are hoping Portsmouth will carry their winning spirit through to the forthcoming fixture.

On 28th January, Portsmouth RFC hosts a Sponsors Day (tickets available on the Club’s website) with former Leicester, England and British Lion Tim Stinson attending the meal. Make sure to get down there and support the boys for what is now bound to be a great game, and I’ll be back next week with the report.

Photography by Lesley Gicquel.