Strong Start to the Season for 1s
Field’s 1st XV started their second season in LSW3 with tight, low scoring match against local rivals, Portsmouth.
In their fixtures last season Pompey were clearly the better side, romping to two victories and amassing a 72-point scoring margin across both games. Pompey went on to challenge for the top of the table, finishing third just 3-points off the lead while Field battled bravely to avoid the drop. This history plus the numerous changes to their side for the new season suggested that Field were definite underdogs for this fixture.
Field started brightly and were applying pressure in the last third of the pitch when their hosts broke away to score a long distance try which was duly converted. Field went back to work from the restart and their efforts continued to be rewarded with the lion’s share of territory.
The Field pack was holding its own against their much larger opposition and it was from this platform - albeit through a Pompey transgression - that they were able to launch their own try-scoring opportunity. A penalty conceded by Pompey collapsing a scrum provided Field with a lineout where a switch drive and a quickly splintering maul sent lanky Lock, Franko Tomić, bundling over the line. With the gusting wind against him, stand-off Nick Blumlein pushed the conversion narrowly wide.
As they did for the bulk of the first half, Field played their rugby in their hosts’ back yard, only occasionally having to retreat and defend before surging back up the pitch. Five minutes after their try, the visitors had the chance to take the lead with a penalty kick which was conceded by Pompey for sacking a tap-and-go penalty from an offside position – an act that brought with it a yellow card for the infringing forward. Uncharacteristically, Blumlein missed for a second time in a row, his kick bouncing off the left-hand upright.
Portsmouth were able to clear their lines but having sacrificed a three-quarter to replace their sin-binned forward were looking to defend against Field’s constant overlap in the backs. The home side raised their work rate and turned defence into attack, threatening Field’s try line only to knock on.
With the match winding down towards halftime both teams had opportunities to add to their tallies only to cough up penalties while within sight of their goal. The last chance for Pompey, restored again to fifteen, came after Field’s try scorer, Tomić, received a team yellow following a string of Petersfield infringements around the Pompey driving maul. In an attempt to use their man advantage, the hosts swung the ball out to their left wing where the flying winger ran into the brick wall of Field Fullback, Ben Wakefield, whose smother-tackle into touch stopped the play and brought the halftime whistle.
With Field a man down, the start of the second half was a much more balanced affair with Portsmouth making early inroads into their guests red zone. They would have scored with just three minutes on the clock but for some powerful defence from Field who held up a driving maul to win a 5m scrum. As a bonus, the clearance kick from the back of the scrum was fluffed into touch, gifting Field an attacking lineout just inside their opponents half.
Field’s scrummaging was inspired in the second half and the pack destroyed a Portsmouth scrum halfway through the third quarter. Their efforts were rewarded with a penalty which was kicked to touch halfway in to the Pompey 22.
Lineout won, play was taken into midfield where Pompey coughed up another penalty in front the posts. Blumlein was on hand to colly slot the kick, taking Field into the narrowest of leads.
Portsmouth appeared to react slightly petulantly to decisions given against them during the third quarter and were talked to by the referee on numerous occasions. On the final occasion, the referee stopped play to allow the Pompey captain to gather his team and pass the message on. The threat of the naughty step obviously had the desired effect as Pompey’s play returned them to the Field 22 early in the final quarter.
The pressure was building on Field and the momentum was with the home side, despite a few good breakouts which the Red Team couldn’t turn into points. When Blumlein was adjudged to have been in an offside position when stopping a tap and go penalty move, the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try and binning the young standoff.
During the remaining minutes of the game the play ebbed and flowed as the fourteen of Field attempted to recapture the lead and Pompey looked to put the win beyond doubt. However, there was no further score and the home side recorded their first win of the season while Petersfield received a losing bonus-point which put them eighth in the table.
Despite the loss, Field can be satisfied that the injection of fresh players into the side looks to be settling in very well and provide the team with options that they perhaps lacked last season. Nic Wilde at hooker had a solid game and it was good to see a number of players returning to the side after long absences, Eryn Eales and Aaron Cartwright to name but two. The new three-quarter line looks very competent and the handling was crisp and clean, with players confident in playing flat balls in the face of the defensive line.
After the game, Field’s Captain, Jack Lumbard, urged his side to only take positives from the contest. “This was a great game to be a part of,” he said, “shame about the result for a game we controlled very well, it’s a long season and the results will come.”
Next week, Field have another stern test for their first home match as they meet US Portsmouth. US also lost on Saturday in a high scoring match at home to Winchester, (33-40). US sit just above Field on two points courtesy of 4-try and losing-bonus points.