After a summer break, S&C’s rugby correspondent Will Payne returns with his weekly rugby column, as Portsmouth start the new season with a lot to prove.
After being relegated to London South West Division 3 last season on points difference, Portsmouth were looking for a strong start to the new season. The team had a lot to prove on 9th September as they travelled to New Malden to face Old Emanuel (OE) one of two teams newly promoted to the league.
The game kicked off and so did the points with OE scoring in just 4 minutes, after Portsmouth lost the ball off a penalty lineout. 5-0 to the home team.
After a good line break from Morgan off a lineout, Portsmouth were awarded a scrum on the OE’s 22. Good defence from the opposition meant the ball was cleared, resulting in a penalty which was then converted making. 8-0 to OE after 10 minutes.
Portsmouth came close to getting some points on the board but Simon Morgan’s kick went wide. then, 20 minutes in to the first half, OE added another 7 points to their score, making it 15-0 to the home team.
This was not the dream start to the season Pompey were looking for, and though there was a glimmer of hope for the team, a disallowed goal from the referee soon put paid to it. After some good back and forth play between both teams’ 22s, Portsmouth managed to secure a lineout ball. Fooks made the final touch to drive it over, and Morgan with the conversion brought the score to 15-7 with 33 minutes played.
With points on the board for the first time in the game, the momentum was behind Portsmouth as they piled on the pressure. After good attacking work, the team were awarded a penalty which was converted by Morgan, making the score 15-10.
Portsmouth pressed forward and after being awarded a penalty and opting for the scrum, the ball was played out wide, seeing Oven dance through the defence to score a well-earned try. Morgan with the extra points, Portsmouth went in to the second half 15-17 up.
It was a bit shaky in the first half from Portsmouth, but perhaps this was to be expected from the first game of the season. Old Emanuel had a lot to prove in this game, being one of the up and coming teams from the lower leagues.
Second half, and straight from the start, Portsmouth lost a lineout, allowing OE to easily run over and make the score 22-17 to the home team.
The Pompey lineout looked weak, but OE were penalised, allowing Morgan to convert and make the score 22-20, with only 7 minutes of the half gone.
A sudden change in weather brought torrential rain, hail, thunder and lighting and ball handling and overall game quality dropped drastically as a result.
Despite the sudden storm, 14 minutes into the second half OE converted a penalty to make the score 25-20 to the hosts. Almost instantaneously the team increased their lead to 32-20 after scoring a well worked try.
10 minutes later, OE scored their 5th try of the game, after a great move from their number 3. The score stood at 37-20.
Pompey began to feel the pressure and fight back, with great play from the team allowing Davies to hit a perfect line through the defence. Sadly, after colliding with the posts and dropping the ball slightly, officials ruled that he as not in control of the ball.
With just a few minutes remaining, Portsmouth dug deep and began piling on the pressure to the opposition. After being awarded a scrum on the OE’s 5, the opposing team were penalised for collapsing the scrum, winning Portsmouth a penalty try, and bringing the score to 37-27 with OE leading.
Keeping the pressure on, Portsmouth were awarded a penalty try making the score 37-34 in the closing seconds. but the whistle blew and the game ended with the advantage to the home team.
Their first game back was not the dream start Portsmouth were hoping for, but the team still managed to come away with 2 bonus points. This game might be a wake up call to the Pompey boys, showing this league will not be an easy ride.
Over the weekend, I’ll be back with a match report on Portsmouth vs Basingstoke, who lost 55-17 to new Milton on their opening day. Portsmouth currently sit in 7th place, but it’s still early in the season yet.
Image by Lesley Gicquel.