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Away Day Blues

By Tim Holling

The 1st XV lose 38-15 to Old Cranleighans

A disappointing and frustrating day for Gosport & Fareham, especially as preparations went well through the week and during the warm up. Morale and expectations where high following a good performance against Old Reigatian’s the previous week and we used training to develop the new system and process, everyone believed this was our game for the taking as we defeated them at Gosport Park and they only sit one position above us in the league standings.

Due to injuries, unavailabilities we were unable to field the same squad as last week, but we did welcome the return of Sean Shepherd, Matt Forfar and Sam Gee for this important fixture.

Gosport kicked off and the ball was tapped back in the air from Shaun Taylors chase, rising above the opposition. So we were on the front foot from the start, we started to build some pressure through patience and a number of phases, again we got deep into the oppositions half and posing a threat. Unfortunately we turned the ball over and we did not make the transition from attack to defence quick enough and the opposition utilised their strong runners and after a couple of phases they scored. This did not dent our confidence as we re-grouped and re-started the game, after exchanges of possession we started to build territory and possession. Sam Gee showed his energy levels and willingness to go looking for the ball, he appeared in the attacking line as second receiver and used his speed of thought and put a delicate little grubber through to allow Shaun Taylor’s scoring run to continue as he touched down in the corner, unfortunately the conversion was missed, so the scores were level at 5 all. With confidence high again, Gosport and Fareham went on the attack and a good break from Rory Penfold had us within 7 metres of the opposition line, but if it were not for some very strategic and clever retreating from the opposition full back we would have scored as Sam Gee was supporting on the inside, however the full backs timely intervention meant we turned the ball over.

Old Cranleighan’s second try came about with some poor tackling which resulted in them going under the posts to make it 12 - 5, at this point we were playing as the walking wounded as Andy Vance had tweaked his groin and was unable to explode away and not achieve top speed, but we made the decision to keep him on the field to make the most of his experience and allow him to use the players around him to ensure we were as strong as possible defensively. The reason for this was Sean Shepherd playing in the centre was returning from a hamstring injury and we want to manage his work load throughout the game. Our fears came to reality when we lost Sean Shepherd midway through the first half, but this time it was the other hamstring, this meant a shuffle of personnel and saw Matt Forfar end the game at 9, Wes Dugan to 10 and Dane Smallbone moving to 12, this is a formation we have run before and is a trust combination.

Gosport and Fareham had a considerable amount of possession throughout the game and when the stats are complied, the amount of possession we had will be more significant than the opposition, but we did not control the ball when going into contact sufficiently well and turned the ball over, this was due to our body positions and trying off-loads for which we would not normally attempt on another day. This was too often and allowed the opposition to relieve the pressure. Old Cranleighan’s were dangerous in the outside channels but we did not help ourselves with an inconsistent defensive line which allowed them to break through and then we had to scramble back and try and hold them out but due to numbers they converted the majority of their chances.

The Gosport pack was outstanding, putting constant pressure on the Old Cranleighan scrum and lineout, the scrum dominance ensure they never got clean ball to play from and the pressure resulted in a number of scrums against the head especially in the last 7 minutes of the game. Simon Trivett was as safe as ever in the lineout ensuring we had clean ball from which to build upon.

With 10 minutes to go, we saw the true Gosport and Fareham, turning defence into attack deep in our half to scoring a try in the corner. We controlled the pace of the ball and started to dominate the contact area allowing go forward ball to play from. Due to this play we were awarded a number of penalties and with the trust in the inside and outside men we quickly got into the opposition 22 and moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other with ease ensuring we retained the ball, again Sam Gee’s industry resulted in a ball being played for Rory Penfold to touch down wide in the corner. Our tails up and a new found energy we went on the attack again and quickly moved up the pitch and quick plays of the ball including penalties saw us within touching distance of the opposition line, this time quick hands saw prop Jordan Carter forcing himself over the line to score our third try. With the referee indicating the kick off would be the last play of the game, we had our sights on a try bonus point. Old Cranleighan’s kicked deep to make our task of scoring even harder, however Gosport and Fareham kept their best passage of play until the very end of the game, using their new structure and processes, they retained possession and broke down the resolute opposition defence, a clean break by Wes Dugan saw us within 4 metres of the opposition line, but as in the first half, clever running lines by the retreating defender meant they got their body in the way of the pass and they took the final pass and then they kicked the ball out of play to bring the game to an end.

At the post match huddle, we said to the players you can forget a good 70 minutes of the game and concentrate on the last 7 minutes and the first few minutes, as during that last few minutes we showed what we can do and should focussing on for our next league fixture against Old Alleynians on 2 Mar at Gosport Park. There are a number of positives we are taking away from todays game, especially the dominance of the scrum which continues to get better and better with each game.

Updated 15:43 - 18 Feb 2019 by Tim Holling

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