US Portsmouth vs Fordingbridge (away)
US 1st XV inflict heavy defeat on strong Fordingbridge side, previously unbeaten on their patch for 3 seasons!
Saturday 11th October, 2014, Fordingbridge RFC
The conditions early on in the day suggested a mud bath, a nirvana for the 'larger' forwards, not so much for the new look US side. However, approximately 2 hours prior to kick off, the sun was out, the wind had settled and the Fordingbridge pitch was very well groomed (a close second to our very own turf at Burnaby Rd).
The mood in the camp was pensive. Coaches 'Butts' and 'Molly', as well as DOR Matt Davis took the warm up sensing nerves. But, by the time the team were back in the changing room, captain Gareth 'Guylly' Guyll had calmed those nerves and had the team focused on the job at hand.
US kicked off and were awarded with a scrum from the resultant handling error. The platform was solid and the ball was won (a number of scrums that followed didn't go the same way!). Despite urgency and commitment displayed by the pack, the systems weren't quite gelling, though the pack started to assert dominance via the lineout drive, which proved extremely effective and good ground made by attacking through powerful close quarter ball carries by Porter, Rolfe and Snowball.
The first breakthrough came from the increasingly impressive Tom Blewitt - a Chichester University player who joined during the off season. The 10 scored with a show and go, exploiting the ensuing gap. Chris Marriott missed with the extras. After a solid catch and drive from the kick off from the ever present Porter, the pack and back line linked well, making in roads to the Fordingbridge half. Particularly, the chunky 12; Tom 'Willy' Willoughby and 13 Nathan Bond were linking well off Blewitt, making yards with each carry.
Possession was lost from a number of poor set pieces. However, it was that man Blewitt who capitalised on a Fordingbridge flat line to kick over deftly, collect his kick and score under the posts, a wonderfully skilful try. The try was converted by Marriott to bring the score to 0-12. The kick off again was collected by the man-mountain Porter who immediately made ground into the opposition half. A number of forward carries orchestrated by commanding scrum half Ben 'Weeman' Smith maintained the forward momentum, though after a number of phases, the 'bridge' defence was holding up well. Smith hoofed over a bomb, chased by the powerful winger Peters, who pressured the receiver into kicking to touch. The resultant lineout was well executed by the US pack and a solid 15m drive collapsed over the opposition try line with the 'squatmeister general', Sam Porter emerging with the ball for a well worked US forward try. Marriott again, added the extras- 0-19.
As the half progressed, Bridge began to make inroads with their 10 drifting and pulling US defenders across, making large gaps for their impressive midfield to power through. US rallied back to recover, Blewitt popping up to make the tackle 10m from the US line. US then spent the next 8-10 minutes camped on their 5m line, defending doggedly, with maximum commitment. Bridge's pressure eventually paid off with a converted penalty try. Momentum had very much swung to the home team and another foray into the US half had given bridge another 3 points before the end of the half.
Half time score: 10-19
The half time team talk centred on belief, focus on patterns and tightening up the defence. Guylly again rallied the troops and US prepared to receive possession. Grant Anderson replaced Young Kelvin Roberts on the wing and the versatile Oli Smith replaced Portsmouth loanee Jordan Cracknell. The next 10 minutes was akin to a stalemate, both sides battling hard up front with big contact in the midfield. The deadlock was broken by a Snowball turnover in the midfield, with the ball popped to the 6 Liam 'Duracell' Googun who ran and jinked from way outside the 22m line to score under the posts. The pack again showed signs of dominance, however, two injuries in quick succession (Mr Consistent; Phill Gilliland [broken rib] and impressive second row convert; Will Pickett [sore neck]), gave the opposition the edge in the set piece. On came the evergreen Matt Davis to cover hooker, Guylly switching to prop and Cracknell back into the row.
The tempo of the game seemed to increase further and 'Bridge' continued to fight with the belief that the game could be brought back. No such luck as the Gaygun again took it upon himself to add to his increasing tally despite signalling to the bench for an early bath due to energy levels! Rolfe and Porter came close again after a period of relentless pressure, though both denied by poor body positions over the line. Bridge had a rare forage into the US half and kicked a penalty to get their score ticking again for the first time in the second half.
US got their final score of the afternoon through capitalising on a Bridge handling error, Tom Blewitt getting a toe onto the loose ball, kicking through to score his hat trick and to seal off a good individual performance. The extras were kicked again by Marriott who has really impressed in all three games from 15 this season. With 12 minutes to go, Rolfe was sent to the sin bin for 'killing the ball'. Ironically, this gave the US pack a little advantage as the Fordingbridge pack had been getting the upper hand in the second half scrums and afforded the US backs a good platform to attack Bridge.
US lost possession from the kick off and Bridge rallied again, with their 10 effective in creating holes for his strong runners to make in roads to the US half. US had a number of opportunities to clear, though poor decisions failed to relieve the pressure - Bridge scored the final points of the afternoon with a well worked try.
The full time whistle was sounded before Rolfe was able to re enter the field of play. The final whistle was greeted by cheers and smiles from the men in red and blue. Coach Molly commended the squad in their belief and hard work and the way in which they fought as a team throughout to earn the victory. Geoghegan was named man of the match for his all round dogged display. Blewitt took the reindeer antlers of 'Poly', despite his fantastic hat-trick; for attempting to grubber the ball from his 22 for Luke Peters to catch, only for the opposition 7ft winger to collect and attack!
Full time score: 20-40
Squad: Rolfe, Guyll (c), Gilliland, Cracknell, Pickett, Geoghegan, Snowball, Porter, Smith, Blewitt, Roberts, Willoughby, Bond, Peters, Marriott. Bench: Davis, Smith, Anderson
Try scorers: Blewitt (3), Geoghegan (2), Porter
Conversions: Marriott (5)
Coaches Corner: It's pleasing to see a number of partnerships developing across the squad; the front row union of Rolfe, Captain Guyll and Gilliland; Pickett and Cracknell in the engine room; the back row of Porter, Snowball and Geoghegan; Smith and Blewitt; Willoughby and Bond; and the back three working well together. What's also encouraging is that despite this convincing result, there's plenty to work on as a squad. We have a number of stern tests on the horizon, starting with Alton at home on the 18th, followed by the unbeaten Millbrook on the 25th. We are at the beginning of our journey, let's keep our focus and we look forward to welcoming Alton to our wonderful ground.
United we stand!! Until next week,