Old Tiffinians 35 v 20 Portsmouth
Tiffs produce performance of the season to seal an upset win
Saturday 4th November 2017 saw Old Tiffs host their annual Ladies Day, where club members invite their friends, family, other halves and, in the case of Tom Kinnaird, girls they just met the previous night, down to Grists to watch some rugby and crack open several cold ones.
The visitors were high flying Portsmouth; the in-form team in the league who had in recent weeks been routinely clocking up cricket scores against hapless opponents. Nevertheless, following a slow start to the season, Tiffs were enjoying their own resurgence having won their previous two matches and there was a palpable sense of confidence that they were going to make things difficult for the side from the south coast.
Tiffs laid down a marker from the outset with their quick line speed and strong tackles combining to put Portsmouth under some early pressure. This fast start was duly rewarded when Sharpy slotted home a penalty from the 10m line; however, the visitors hit back almost immediately, capitalising on some uncharacteristically sloppy defence around the ruck to bundle home a pick-and-go and take the lead, 3-5.
Tiffs refused to let this hiccup disrupt their early dominance and continued to apply pressure on the visitors with their defence. Inevitably, the pressure paid dividends when Fawcett somehow pickpocketed the ball from an opposing attacker before stepping the fullback to score under the posts. The try was converted to make it 10-5. A few minutes later, Tiffs compounded the problems for the seemingly bemused visitors with a fantastically worked try. After several phases during which Tiffs executed their attacking patterns with strong running from Carvill and Jae, the centre pairing of Graham and Halse linked up out wide to put the latter through for the home side’s second try of the game. Again, Sharpy was pinpoint with his conversion to take the score to 17-5.
The remainder of the first half was spent primarily camped in Tiff’s own half as Portsmouth looked to take advantage of consistent ill-discipline. Despite prolonged periods of excellent tryline defence, the visitors were eventually rewarded with a try from the driving maul. Nevertheless, it was the home side that were to finish the half stronger with two well-taken penalties from Sharpy. The pick of them was the result of a phenomenal take by Mackee at the restart. The score at half time: 23-10.
The second half started with flair and exuberance. Following a slow pass from McCue, Sonny Bill Taylor tried an audacious flick out the back in an attempt to utilise the space created by the rush defence and send his winger down the line. Unfortunately for Tiffs, Leungy was not quite on the same wavelength and the ball slipped through his hands and into touch.
The ensuing 20 minutes was characterised by Tiffs unable to get out of their half due to a combination of a lack of composure, ill-discipline and a resurgent Portsmouth side. Tiffs were dealt an added blow mid-way through the half when McCue, who had been excellent throughout with his dynamism around the ruck, was shown a yellow for the team’s repeated penalties. The visitors were able to eventually capitalise on their period of sustained pressure by scoring two unanswered tries as they looked to be finally grinding the home side down. Both conversions were missed, 23-20.
With the teams virtually level, it was clear that the next try would be vital in deciding the outcome of the match. Fortunately for the home side and their adoring fans on the sideline, it was Tiffs who would get this all-important score as Fawcett – back with a vengeance after a prolonged period of being crocked – finished off a nice break in the middle of the field to put some daylight between the two sides. The match finished with a huge psychological victory for the forward pack – who had needed to dig deep at stages in the match – as they drove Portsmouth’s scrum deep into their own 22-metre line before Jae recovered the ball to score under the posts and add a bit of gloss to the final score.
This was a fantastic result for Tiffs who have struggled at stages so far this season, but now look to be gaining significant momentum. The teams above them in the league will no doubt be looking over their shoulders as Tiffs continue to climb up the table. An away match next against 4th-placed Trojans provides the perfect opportunity to continue this resurgence.
Final Score Old Tiffinians 35 v 20 Portsmouth
Tries Fawcett x 2, Halse, Jang x 2
Conversions Sharp x 2
Penalties Sharp x 2
DoD: James McCue
Report by George Taylor