It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance by Gosport and Fareham on Saturday.
Whilst preparations had not been the best due to injuries and non-availabilities, there was still belief that we could get something out of the fixture, this was due to the personalities within the squad and the believe from the previous encounter at Old Alleynians ground earlier in the season where we did ourselves proud and put in a strong performance.
A normal Saturday at Gosport park was the setting for a dry but windy afternoon of rugby. Due to work commitments and home life balance, match day preparations were slightly different to allow the players to have additional time to run through the moves and ensure our processes were in place prior to the warm up. This showed its benefit during the warm up as we looked slick in the handling aspects.
Unfortunately we did not come out of the changing room with the correct levels of physicality and tempo, conceding early points. The task in hand was made harder by the fact we were playing into a strong wind which limited our options to exit and also facing a defensive line which was quick to close down the space, sometimes on the blindside of the referee. However we settled down and started to apply some pressure on the opposition line but we lacked that clinical edge needed to convert pressure into points.
Due to conceding early points our confidence was in defence was lacking and this was evident in how the opposition made early yards and used this to their advantage. On a positive note, our scrum continues to be a strong and attacking weapon which disrupted a number of potential attacking opportunities for the opposition. Despite our endeavours to put points on the board in the first half we did not achieve this and went into half time with zero on our side.
During the halftime talk, we set ourselves some new goals and targets to achieve during the game. One of these was quickly achieved, from the kick off we applied the pressure and caused turnover ball, this allowed us to apply pressure for the next five minutes, which resulted in us going over from a driving maul from the attacking line-out, the try was scored by captain Aiden Price and converted by Dane Smallbone. The second half was swinging one way and then the other throughout, but Gosport and Fareham continued to create chances but we were unable to convert these.
The back line was shuffled in an effort to change the face of defence and add a little bit of bite to it, this resulted in Shaun Taylor moving from full back to Wing and Wes Dugan moving to outside centre. This was proven to be a shrewd move as Shaun made a try saving tackle out wide and forcing the opposition into touch, and then the opposition tight head prop breaking the line only to be clobbered by Wes, who bounced straight back to his feet and stopped the attack dead. After a period of possession, the opposition started to gain territory through our ill-discipline and we put pressure on our defence by doing so. We did show our resolute side and that we can match any opposition in the physical aspect of the game, when we came under a period of pressure were they were knocking hard at our line but our defence stood solid and resulted in Old Alleynians losing their discipline and giving a penalty away. This was made even more pleasing as Gosport were reduced to 14 men at this point as the referee deemed an offside penalty on the half way line worthy of a yellow card offence.
What was pleasing to see was we did not concede any points in the second half and we showed what we can do, as we have a crucial game away to London Exiles next week.
Two players who deserve a special mention are Callum Fraser for his work rate and willingness to show and carry the ball and Shaun Taylor for his never say die attitude. The game also saw Ben Smith’s 1XV debut, for which he did very well and should the future for Gosport and Fareham rugby club is bright, as Ben is 17 and played like a very mature and experienced player.