By Connor Steel
GOSPORT AND FAREHAM RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB (GFRFC) returned to winning ways on Saturday afternoon following two successive league defeats, beating New Milton & District 25-10 to solidify their second place position in the Hampshire Premier Division. In muddy and windy conditions due to the aftermath of Storm Eunice it took a man-of-the-match performance from Robert Ellis to seal the win as he scored three tries to make the difference between the two teams.
Before kick-off both sides announced they would retire the number eleven shirt for the game and there was a moment of applause in memory of Jack Jeffery; an Evesham player who sadly passed away recently after suffering an injury whilst scoring a try. Similar events and tributes were also held across the country as rugby teams from all levels paid tribute to one of their own; international sides set to carry their own memorials this week at their Six Nations encounters.
When play begun GFRFC started well and took the lead after just 4 minutes as good possession was worked in the hands of Ellis, who outpaced and muscled his way towards the try-line before placing the ball down for five points; the kicker failing to nail the conversion as it drifted wide. The game did then settle with the hosts being quick at the scrums, winning a penalty after 21 minutes; their kicker making no mistake in firing over from an angle to make the score five-three.
GFRFC extended their narrow lead on 29 minutes as Ellis added his second try, whilst Shaun Taylor touched over a third five pointer just moments later; both conversions too far away to convert. But this lead was again cut by a New Milton try on the stroke of half time as their winger was found on the right to convert over and the kicker again made no mistake in adding the extras; the visitors in the lead at 15-10 as the referee blew for the half-time whistle in the New Forest.
New Milton started well in the second half as they changed ends, now attacking in lower wind gusts and this did show in the opening spell after the restart; GFRFC struggling to break through deep and organised defenders who were attacking their line to good effect. But a change in tactics saw them play wider just before the hour mark, adding another try to the scores and point tables as Ellis completed his hat-trick by running down the side and converting with ease as he dived over.
Substitutions followed for both sides after another missed try conversion, but GFRFC’s win was all but confirmed on 75 minutes with a fifth try; coming after a scrappy spell with a boggy surface taking full effect. A scrum on the 22-yard box was eventually played into the path of Taylor via a short and clever offload with the attacker doing the rest; the conversion again missed in difficult conditions as the referee blew for the end of the game shortly afterwards to seal a 25-10 win.
The bonus point means GFRFC have extended their lead over third-place Bognor to seven points after 17 games with fourteen wins and just three defeats this campaign. They will now play two home matches over the next two weekends as they host IOW outfit Sandown & Shanklin this Saturday (February 26), before Ellingham & Ringwood visit Dolphin Crescent seven days later; with Havant IIs heading for the league title with a perfect 100% record from their 18 games so far.
PICTURED BY MARTIN BURNETT: GFRFC bounced back to form with a 25-10 victory over New Milton as season draws to a close with just six game-weeks left across the Hampshire Premier League.