Depleted Gosport surrender pole position

Matt Flower scored for Gosport & Fareham. Picture: Paul Jacobs (133504-1)
Matt Flower scored for Gosport & Fareham. Picture: Paul Jacobs (133504-1)
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Gosport & Fareham saw their London two south west title hopes blown off course with a 22-22 draw at Winchester.

The visitors suffered a nightmare build-up to the game with injuries and unavailability.

And in the end Scott Ashley was relieved to come away with a point – although it allowed title rivals Guildford to leapfrog his side at the summit.

The head coach likened the situation to 1980s Hollywood comedy film Planes, Trains & Automobiles as he was faced with a race against time to put a side together and get to the pitch ready for kick-off.

Although his last-minute replacements all performed admirably, it was far from ideal.

‘There are no excuses but we didn’t have the best preparation going into what was always going to be a tough game,’ said Ashley.

‘It started on Thursday when there were doubts – not only if the game would be played but where it would be played.

‘Then on Saturday morning myself and team manager Dave Lewis found ourselves literally running around trying to put a team together.

‘Players, for all sorts of reasons, were still crying off as we were getting on the coach.

‘In the end we had players coming from everywhere – it was a bit like Trains, Planes & Automobiles.’

Outside-half Spencer Harrison was forced to take a taxi from Bath after his train was cancelled.

Number eight Daz Willey drove from Cardiff and young winger Dom Hollins was driven to Winchester by his father at the last minute.

The visitors arrived at North Walls to find a heavily-sanded pitch, which made life difficult for both teams.

It was Gosport & Fareham, however, who came to terms with it best in the first half as they opened up a 19-0 lead by the break.

Matt Flower went over for an early try after six minutes before the game soon began to break down.

The visitors had inside centre Kieron McRoberts sin-binned but managed to keep the hosts at bay while down to 14 men.

On 24 minutes, 17-year-old Hollins was taken out as he looked to fall on his fly-hack over the line.

And Gosport & Fareham were awarded a penalty try which Wayne Dugan converted.

Three minutes before the interval, stand-in hooker John Field added a third try with Dugan converting magnificently from the touchline.

‘We were looking okay at the half-way stage but then we took our finger off the pulse,’ said Ashley.

‘Our decision making was naive and we made too many mistakes.

‘We gave away a stupid penalty at the start of the second half which ended in a conveted try which put Winchester right back in it.’

Dugan added another penalty but tries after 59 and 71 minutes got the home side back to 22-19.

Another poor decision saw Winchester level the scores with a final penalty and while Gosport camped on the home line in the final minutes, they couldn’t find a winning score.

‘We are being hit by injuries and non-availability,’ said Ashley.

‘The title destiny is out of our hands now, so all we can do is keep going and see how it pans out.’