An emotional roller coaster of emotions for all those involved with Gosport and Fareham this weekend.
Prior to the match and with both the 1st & 2nd XV at home the club was able to say a final farewell to life long member Peter Cunningham who sadly passed away at the end of last year with a minute silence before both matches.
Not the ideal preparation for the 1s, with player coaching Dane Smallbone having to withdraw from the match day squad due to having emergency root canal surgery on Friday. Being the consummate player he is, he still had the mind-set and desire to play and not let anyone down, unfortunately the level of pain and from a player welfare decision he was removed from the squad 90 minutes before kick off. However we reverted to a halfback partnership, which has already played together against Old Reigatians, Matt Forfar at 9 and the experience of Wes Dugan at 10, ensured this late change had minimal impact on the squad. Matt had already commenced his warm up with the 2s who had a very hard fixture against Bognor, so he quickly had to have a mind-set change from playing 10 for the 2s to starting at 9 for the 1s.
The focus all week was being more ruthless during the game and taking as many league points as possible. We did not start the best conceding 10 points within the first five minutes, but the players showed their resolve and started to take control of the game. Unfortunately we suffered injuries to Toby Woodford (Shoulder) and Tom Batley (Ribs) within the first ten minutes both are influential players in their own right and a loss to the squad. After the re-shuffle within the pack, we started to dominate the majority of the possession and territory after a shock start, we showed great patience as we progressed down the pitch with good interchange between forwards and backs. Unfortunately our game managed resulted in us making an error, which handed the ball back to the opposition. Disappointingly we conceded 2 of our 3 first half penalties in quick succession which resulted in a loss of territory and ending up in us conceding a try from the resulting catch and drive from the lineout. However the players did not let this deter them and they continue to bang on the Twickenham door, which resulted in Matt Tatum scoring a well worked try on 37 minutes, with a closely followed penalty 3 minutes later by Dom Holling, making the score 8-17. Whilst attacking in midfield we turned over the ball to Twickenham and the broke on the outside and scored on the stroke of half time, meaning we went in 8-24 at the half time interval.
When the team came out after half time they looked a completely different side, we started really well and drove the opposition back deep into their own half. At half time we brought on the experience of Andy Vance who agreed to come and cover the bench from the team, Wes and Andy created an understanding immediately and they kept the team going forwards. They also did not allow us to play too much rugby in the wrong areas. We maintained this pressure and scored 19 unanswered points which resulted in us taking a 27 – 24 lead with around 5 minutes left on the clock, with tries from Sean Shepherd (53 min), Wes Dugan (67 min) and Andy Vance (70 min), with Dom Holling converting the last two tries. Disappointingly our game management was not as good as it could have been, so we were unable to close the game out, we lost our composure and made decisions which we would regret at the final whistle. Twickenham applied pressure through our ill discipline and it resulted in Daniel O’Donoghue receiving a yellow card for being deemed to collapse a driving maul. We conceded 8 penalties within the second half, which unfortunately took the overall penalty count to 11, we strive to keep the total to less than 10 penalties each game. This pressure resulted in Twickenham scoring one further try and penalty making the final score 27-34.
There are lots of positives to take away from this performance, with our game management being an area we need to develop. A special mention to Matt Forfar who had a good game at 9 and made the transition easily from 2s to 1s, also Dan Turner continues to impress with his endless energy and tenacity within the tackle, he sets the standard for the others to chase.
Whilst we did not achieve the full 5 points within the league, we did take a very valuable 2 points to ensure we add to our total.
Match highlights can be seen in the accompanying video