With a storming run of games over the likes of Alton and Fordingbridge, Petersfield found themselves in a Plate final against a tough Havant team.
Right from the early start, brought forward to save players and spectators from hanging around in the driving rain, this was a game dominated by the weather. It made handling very difficult, the ball like the proverbial bar of soap, and to some extent muted Havant's considerable speed advantage in the backs. That said, what really countered Havant's speedy backs and powerful forwards was a team performance of courage and determination from Petersfield. Havant had beaten Field comfortably earlier in the season and had enjoyed a 54-0 win in the semi-final. The entire Petersfield side knew they had to dig deep today.
Petersfield spent the first quarter soaking up a series of strong and persistent Havant attacks. It would be wrong to mention any individual back as they all, without exception, put in thumping tackles, some without doubt try-saving. Finally, however, Havant's relentless pressure paid off and after a precise cross kick they were over in the left corner. Too far out for Havant to convert, but very soon afterwards their outside centre drifted inside his cover and found the space to deploy his impressive speed and touch down under the posts. 12-0 at half time.
Petersfield started the second half with a very different line up having made wholesale changes at half time. It is hard for Field's support to understand the tactical thinking behind substituting seven players at once. Whilst there were undoubtedly talented players on the bench that Petersfield needed on the pitch, to bring them all on at once changed the balance of the side and with it the team's cohesion, particularly in defence. In particular, Field's No 8, Brown, was having a storming game and was sorely missed in most of the second half.
That said, Blumlein began the half with an individual try of the type he has produced often this season. Straight from Havant's kick off, a return kick and chase led to a try which he converted to bring the score back to 7-12. More pressure from Petersfield's forwards made the next score with Moore crashing over from close range. Sadly Blumlein couldn't repeat his earlier kicking excellence and the scores were level at 12-12.
Now what was to prove the deciding score. A couple of missed tackles and once again Havant's backs had space to use their speed, finishing under the posts for a quickly converted try. 19-12 and Petersfield were chasing again. Great effort from all 15 players but they just couldn't get the score they needed. Sniping runs, one from Haldenby in particular, forward drives and rolling mauls, even a trip across the line by Myer - sadly held up - brought out some very strong defensive work from the visitors. Havant conceded a string of penalties as they played the offside rule Kiwi-close but Petersfield couldn't find the points they needed and finally Mr O'Kelly blew for full time with the score still at 12-19 to the visitors. A good day for Petersfield, although sharper tackling could have led to a different result.
You may think that not many names have been mentioned in this account and believe this is because there were no stand out performance. Whilst this may be true on other days and with other teams, this is not the case here. In reality, there were too many to call; to single out individuals in a team performance of this nature would be invidious - if you want to see who played bravely and hard and to their best, one only has to read the team list at the end of this article.
Petersfield have made a massive improvement over the course of this their first season in Junior rugby, with some new players stepping up and taking highly regarded roles in the team. Indeed, year on year the players have shown the benefits of their continued development; the 2011-12 campaign has been a vast improvement over the previous season. In September another incredibly tough season will start for the squad, but with the spirit that overflows this team one knows that they will face the challenges head on and give another fine account of themselves.
Team: O'Kelly,Tarling,Hird, Blumlein, Hall, Guyer, Haldenby, Hammond, Banks, Hicks, Eves, Myer, Woodward, Mathews, Brown, Devlin, Francis, Kelson, Rainbow, Moore, Phillips, Thompson.
Report By Will O'kelly