1st XV - Report
Petersfield RFC 1st XV (12) v Fordingbridge 1st XV (26)
With over one hundred guests at “the Farmers Lunch” in the clubhouse a big crowd and a full balcony may have been expected as seventh-placed Petersfield welcomed second-placed Fordingbridge.
It is a simple fact that possession of the ball prevents the opposition from playing the game and reduces their chances to score. Conversely, the team with the ball have the chance to dominate play, thereby increasing scoring opportunities and the chance to win. Unfortunately, whilst Petersfield secured good possession and territory they were ultimately undone by a couple of unforced errors that allowed a stuttering Fordingbridge to claim four tries to Field’s two and leave Penns Place with a bonus point win.
First to score were Fordingbridge, with just three minutes on the clock a charged down clearance kick deep inside the Petersfield twenty two was pounced on by Bridge’s Tom Webb who touched down for a converted try.
With Field immediately seven points adrift and playing into the wind and driving rain, the hardy support may have been forgiven for thinking things looked ominous for the Reds. After all, before this match their visitors had averaged 48 points per game, 35 of which were unanswered. Field’s forwards had obviously not read the script and, in sustained period of aggressive rolling mauls, and picks and drives from rucks they took the game to Bridge and camped in their half. As the pressure mounted, Bridge’s defence became ragged and the ever present Field eight, Ian Palmer, picked up from a ruck and from twenty metres charged the line to score under the posts for scrum half Matt Doe to improve.
From the restart Petersfield’s pack continued to dominate and Fordingbridge’s discipline began to unravel, with numerous penalties being awarded against them which would have been kickable in better conditions. Kicks to the leeward touch or tap-and-gos were the preferred option, but with the strong, gusting wind and rain in their faces and a wet ball to contend with lineouts were a lottery. Only a huge effort by Field’s back row and half backs kept them in Bridge’s half.
Twice the ball was quickly sent out from rucks, going through the hands of the backs only to see the Field winger, with one man to beat, seek the warmth and comfort of his forwards in midfield. After 15 minutes of stalemate it was the pack who rucked the ball from a tapped penalty to within feet of the line. Hooker Gargaro saw an opening, scooped up the laid back ball and leapt salmon-like over his prone team mates to touch down for an unconverted try.
Almost from the restart Fordingbridge retained possession and despite some initial pressure from Field got their backs in to attack. An apparent breakdown in communication saw most of Field’s backs drift in defence apart from one who charged the attack, allowing Bridge to exploit the resultant gap and race though to level the score.
Twelve all then in the second quarter and hopes were beginning to rise amongst the home support that an upset might be possible, or at least a definite improvement on the 53-0 defeat suffered earlier in the season.
With thirty five minutes on the clock Bridge’s backline once again were able to find a way round Field’s defence having probed and sniped with angled runs and dummies across the park they drew the defence to give them an overlap to score a try wide out which was converted.
The second half started with the score at 12-19 and, with the wind and easing rain behind them, Field had every prospect of surprising all but themselves. However, Bridge were not going to roll over; with players taking knocks and replacements standing by they grabbed one of the few loose balls of the match to power up field releasing their pacey fullback Dan Brown to out run the defence to score a converted try.
The rest of the half was one of determination, effort and waning fitness as both sides defended well and attacks were snuffed out. Petersfield used their local knowledge and the wind to stay in Fordingbridge’s half but perhaps just a little more patience and recognition of slow ball would have seen a try or two from the forwards to bring the scores closer. However it was not to be and Petersfield were the gallant losers on an afternoon when rugby football was the victor.
Afterwards scott heffield was fullsome in his praise for his team's application, "The game plan we were working to was to keep possession and play a pick and drive and mauling game. We practised this during our last training session and executed it to great effect on during the game. For me it was an immense performance by the Field forward with Palmer being outstanding. Although our strategy worked well, if we had kept strictly to it, we may have caused a shock. A great performance from the boys though."
Next week is a catch up weekend for those clubs with outstanding fixtures. As Field have none they get a week off to watch the Six Nations before heading to the New Forest on March 3 to meet eighth placed Romsey.
Report by: Chris Todd