It was a typical Saturday afternoon at Gosport Park, the rain had fallen, the wind was blowing and there was the chance of more rain to come.
This fixture was one in which the players felt we should have got more from when we went to their ground, especially as we had some players who were playing their first game for the 1s and other playing out of their normal position, so revenge was the order of the day.
It was also the first time we could test our new playing style and processes on the field of battle, this was also the first time the coaching staff have asked the players to own the problem they had been set.
The coaching philosophy has always been player ownership and after long discussions and reviews, this was the agreed style we would implement.
Things started very well, we looked in good control and were retaining the ball and moving down the park in an organised manner, especially as we were playing into the wind. However when we approached the green zone, we over complicated things and took the wrong decision, which relieved the pressure on the opposition. Unfortunately we turned the ball over and we did not transition quickly enough from attack to defence, which resulted in some key tackles being missed and we were going backwards and eventually the opposition scored under the posts. This was a shame as we looked in control.
We re-started the game with a dominance in the scrum and we took the most amount of balls against the head in this one fixture than we have all season, this allowed the outstanding Aiden Price to run hard and strong at the heart of the opposition giving us ball going forward. Unfortunately we conceded a penalty and Old Reigatian used the wind to their advantage and pushed back onto our own 5m line, we knew what was coming as the forwards had discussed their strength earlier in the week. Whilst we stopped the initial drive and caused a level of confusion they regrouped and persistence paid off and they went over in the corner, making the score 0 - 12.
The opportunity to regroup under the posts allowed us to refocus and concentrate on what we needed to do, this was to keep it simple and not over play with the ball as we made ground and generated pressure when we did this. The new system allowed us to create quick ball and maintain the pressure on the opposition, so through this pressure we got ourselves into the green zone, this time we attacked the edges and eventually the opposition line was broken and Si Trivett went over with Alex Duncombe converting.
This lifted the players even more as they could see the results of their hard work and how the new system can work. We continued to play in a controlled manner and played the territory and exited when we had to. This allowed us to stay on the front foot and create spaces, whilst we did not convert or take every opportunity the signs were good, again after moving the ball wide and then a kick along the ground, saw a good chase from Rory Penfold who caused the error by the opposition and Wes Dugan was on hand to touch the ball down over the line to level the score at 12 - 12.
Unfortunately full back Andy Vance pulled up with an injury so he was replaced by Kieran Darrington at full back and Will Larkin came on for Jordan Carter who had been solid in the scrum, this meant that Callum Fraser moved to prop and Will played on the flank. This gave one added boost just before half time, following from another dominant scrum and period of possession, Aiden Price broke through the defensive line and went in under the posts and converted by Alex Duncombe right on the stroke of half time, meaning Gosport and Fareham went in at half time 19 - 12 up.
We started the second half in the same way we finished the first, going forward and strong in the scrum. It was evident Old Reigatian tried to adapt their style of play to match the weather conditions, as they reverted to the pick and go from the breakdown, we stood strong and soaked up their possession and our defence resulted them in a handling error which resulted in a cross field kick which just drifted into touch as Shaun Taylor was clear if the ball had stayed in play. However this did not deter Shaun as his persistence and work rate resulted in his reward of a try.
With the try bonus point in the bag, the aim was to keep the scoreboard moving and not allow Old Reigatian’s to leave with anything. Our pressure and dominance was rewarded with penalty for which Alex Duncombe converted to increase the lead and make the oppositions task even harder.
This week saw the return of the dependable partnership of Si Trivett and Toby Woodford in the second row, they controlled the lineout and took a lot of opposition ball which meant they could not use their driving maul, this resulted in the oppositions attacking opportunities being extremely limited. Apart from the initial minutes of the game, our defence was resolute and this resulted in immense pressure which resulted in Rory Penfold intercepting a pass and race clear of the opposition and cross in the corner to make the score 32 - 12 to Gosport and Fareham.
Alex Duncombe returned to the 1s after a long absence and he capped his very welcome and timely return with a drop goal to keep the score board ticking over. Alex controlled the game at 10 and gave both the forwards and backs the platform from which to attack.
Unfortunately we lost a bit of composure with 7 minutes remaining in the game and conceded another penally which resulted in pressure from a catch and drive, then the opposition banging at the Gosport and Fareham line, we held out for a substantial assault but their persistence was rewarded in a try for which they failed to convert. We regained our composure and closed the game out.
This was a pleasing start to the new system and has given the players the confidence to build and develop upon. A key area we need to address for next week is the amount of penalties we gave away in the second half, another opposition could have made us pay for our indiscretions.
It would be very hard to pick out one individual for their performance as all the players stepped up to the plate and played very well, as well as Alex Duncombe playing his first game for a long time the squad welcomed Sam Bartlett who has been playing very well for the 2s and showed why he was selected with his work rate and reading of the game. We also welcomed the return of Dane Smallbone, Andy Vance, Kieran Darrington and Shaun Taylor to the squad and newly married Kieran McRoberts to the squad.
This week we will focus on getting our first away win of the season when we travel to Old Cranleighian’s, they only sit one place above us in the league and the players believe we can achieve the double over the opposition.