By Connor Steel
GOSPORT & FAREHAM Rugby Football Club were unable to continue a perfect start to their Hampshire League Rugby Union campaign on Saturday, beaten 31-26 by Havant II.
The thrilling league match held at Gosport Park was settled by a last gasp try in extra time. It means that GFRFC have dropped their first points of the season and go down to second place after this top-of-the-table clash, Havant leapfrogging their hosts into pole position.
In drizzly but overcast conditions, GFRFC started well and took a 13-point lead within 20 minutes. Helped by a sin-bin for Havant, a penalty from Alex Duncombe accompanied by tries from Iain Grice and Simon Trivett put the hosts ahead. But the two conversions were missed as gusty conditions swept the ground, although Havant II’s kicker didn’t have any issue. His side scored two tries down the other end to lead 14-13 at the break, with the referee also sin-binning Josh Whitehead on 39 minutes for a high tackle that was sandwiched by the two tries.
Having the extra man helped the visitors as they came out firing after the break, using space down the flanks to score two further tries within five minutes to make the scoreline 26-13, with the added bonus of one conversion and an extra league point for scoring four tries in a single game. But GFRFC weren’t giving up easily as another Duncombe penalty followed by Ash Wakefield’s try and conversion reduced the arrears to just three points on 54 minutes.
However another home sin-bin for Tim Snowden meant a tactical switch to prevent Havant from adding points that would surely have ended the contest. This 10-minute period saw no further change to the scoreline as GFRFC absorbed away possession, clearing the ball to safety when required as fresh legs were introduced to the field when fading artificial light caused some knock-ons and spillages that often broke up play in attacking areas.
Just as the match was heading towards its conclusion, the hosts were awarded a penalty which Duncombe converted with ease. GFRBC were now favourites as a Havant player was sinbinned just before the kick to leave the visitors with 14 men to end a physical encounter. But instead of helping the hosts, the numerical advantage was rendered worthless as the visitors snatched victory in the last phase of added time. An attacking player bundling the ball over the line for a try and 31-26 victory despite a missed conversion.
Havant II have now overtaken GFRFC in the Hampshire Premier after seven games without any dropped points, while the hosts picked up a losing bonus point for their efforts. Despite falling to this deflating late defeat they can be proud of their performances so far, beating Bognor, Millbrook, Eastleigh, Chichester, Locksheath Pumas and Sandown & Shanklin before this weekend’s matches. This includes three clean sheets alongside six bonus points for try-scoring, meaning they have 31 points from just seven games out of 22 to play this campaign.
Alongside the best defence in their division GFBC have the third-best point-scoring record, with 231 from the games played. They will look to improve this next Saturday afternoon in their match with New Milton & District at Gosport Park, before a two-week break in the build-up to a trip to Ellingham & Ringwood on November 27. Home matches versus Alresford and Sandown & Shanklin follow before Christmas, with the club hoping to build on rising attendances and plan more events such as Youth Takeover Days as seen for the Havant match following Saturday’s resounding success.
PICTURED BY JO FOOTE / TOMMY MCMILLAN: Scrum in last weekend’s victory over Bognor