USP KO PRFC
By Paul Harrington
It’s Pompey (2) - Petersfield (0) after the first two games of the new season after the matelots of United Services Portsmouth beat the plucky reds at home.
Having been promoted from Hampshire 1 at the end of last season with an almost perfect record, US Portsmouth are one of many teams to be reckoned with in the London 3 South West league. However, having lost a high scoring game in their first outing at home to Winchester, the side would have travelled to Petersfield with thoughts of getting their league train back on the rails.
It looked at first as though this task would be an easy one as, within four minutes of their kick-off, the visitors had muscled their way down the park to score in Aubrey’s Hollow – the conversion, a tricky one from the touchline, added the extras.
From the restart, the play became significantly less one-sided and Field made forays into the US half. With ten minutes on the clock, they finally got their reward for some rumbling forwards play that took the backs to within striking distance. Accurate, bullet-quick passing from the three-quarters put Eddie Matthews away for a scintillating sprint along the left-wing. The pint-sized pocket rocket stood on the gas and zipped past the defence to score Field’s first try. With the wind against him, stand-off Nick Blumlein coolly slotted his kick from the touchline.
With the scores level the tussle for supremacy continued with no clear idea of which team was going to make the next breakthrough. Field’s pack – for once bested in the scrum – were putting in a mighty shift in the loose and it was just reward for their efforts that they were the ones to snatch the lead for the home side.
A penalty lineout took the red team into the US 22 and, ball secured from the throw-in, the forwards rumbled through the phases, reaching ever closer to their goal until young Hooker, Nic Wilde, broke the final line of defence to crash over under the posts. In both league games so far this season, Wilde has caught the eye and proven himself to be more than worthy of his 1st XV place, with a level of ability and tenacity that belies his youthful appearance. The conversion in front of the posts was a mere formality for the cultured boot of Blumlein.
There was no time to rest on their laurels as US upped the pressure in search of their next score. With his line threatened, Field outside centre Ben ‘The Wall’ Wakefield added to his season’s tally with another excellent smother tackle to deny a certain try. However, as the ball was held up over the line, US were given a 5m scrum which they used to good effect to score the first try of the second quarter.
The missed conversion kept Field in the lead but only just and when US were awarded another 5m scrum with ten minutes of the half to go, the outcome was unfortunately inevitable. This time the conversion was good, and US regained the lead, 14-19.
With time running out on the half, Field turned a precarious defensive situation into a sublime attack. The ball was passed to Wakefield in desperation as he was the only ‘out’. However, the centre - twinkling feet mirroring the twinkle in his Irish eyes - kept the ball alive. Wakefield evaded the onrushing US players and bought time for support to arrive in the form of Seb Kay. Kay took the ball down his right-wing into the US half of the pitch before feeding Matt Momber. The inside centre had a lot of ground still to cover and, juggling the ball, managed to fend off the attentions of a US defender to crash over for Field’s third try. This time Blumlein’s kick flew across the front of the posts. This was the final play of the half and the teams went into the break at 19-all.
From the restart, the US players age and experience showed as they went on to dominate the second half. This was helped in part by Field giving away penalties for technical infringements when developing promising attacks. As the clock ticked down and legs became tired, the play became more fragmented and US took further advantage scoring four more converted tries and a penalty to bring up their half-century.
However, whilst the second half score line might suggest otherwise, Field never gave up the fight and were once again rewarded for their efforts with the final try of the match, the team’s fourth. Once again it was forward play from a penalty line out, 5m from the US line. This time finished by flanker Toby Sydenham who bullocked his way past the thinning defence to secure a bonus-point for his side. The conversion was taken quickly by Blumlein, casually kicking a drop goal with 30-seconds on the clock. Field gathered the ball from the restart and, in overtime, drove into the US 22 in search of another score. Unfortunately for the home side, the US defence were sufficiently resolute to cause Field to infringe at a ruck and the penalty they gained allowed them to close the game out.
As usual Field Head Coach, James Alder, had a concise summary at the final whistle, “This was a game of two halves; the first a tough encounter with both teams pushing for points at every opportunity. In the second, US started better and were more ruthless in their finishing, while we worked hard to create chances but could just not finish them off as we did in the first half.
Huge credit to my players as they all put in a shift and were rewarded for it at the death with a deserved fourth, bonus-point winning, try. I thought our overall performance deserved more from the game, but this will be great experience for the five U19 players in the team. One of these was our man of the match, Nic Wilde, who provided great coverage around the pitch, was solid in the set piece and capped a great performance with a try between the sticks.
The future looks very positive with players coming through, however, we need them to get up to speed quickly and, as a team, put in place the improvements we need to ensure we collect our first win.”
The team bids farewell to the golden boots and hair of standoff Nick Blumlein who is off to see the world and looks forward to his return. Alder said, “It’s been great working with him and we wish him all the best. We hope enjoys the experience of a new culture.”
Field are on the road again next week, travelling to Andover. This will be another tricky draw for Alder’s fledglings as Andover were one of the teams relegated from London 2 SW last season. At this early stage of the season, however, Andover sit just beneath Field in eleventh place. The side share the same points tally as Field, courtesy of two try bonuses, but have conceded more points on the field. Like Field, Andover’s loses have come against teams challenging for the top of the table, in their case Winchester and Battersea Ironsides.
It has been a very high-scoring start to the London 3 SW league with over 1400-points being scored across the twelve games to date. This may be due to the relatively benign weather creating good conditions for open running rugby. However, it does hint at how important a solid defence will be in the matches ahead. (Another stat for the sports-nerd is that the total number of points scored by teams to-date is equalled by the number of points conceded…!)