Gronow staying put to help Portsmouth survival fight

Matt Gronow

Matt Gronow

Darren Bamford's hat-trick wasn't enough for Havant against Sidcup. Picture: Kieth Woodland

Havant coach positive despite play-off misery

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Winger Matt Gronow is determined to fire Portsmouth to a vital victory against Winchester at Rugby Camp tomorrow (2.30pm).

It’s a key match for the home side who are aiming to climb out of the London two south west relegation zone.

Veteran Gronow, 40, turned in a stylish display in the 26-10 win against Weybridge Vandals – crowned with a hat-trick of tries.

He has not been playing regularly for the first team this season, preferring to line up for the veteran side.

But Gronow is regarded by Portsmouth manager Nigel Morgan as the top try scorer in the division.

And his skills will be needed again tomorrow.

Morgan said: ‘He is still the best finisher at our level.

‘But all he really wants to do is go back and play with his mates in the vets team.

‘However, he understands the situation we are in and at the moment is prepared to stay and help us out.’

Portsmouth remain in the bottom three, despite their win over Weybridge but have games in hand over the teams above them.

In a tight league, the Rugby Camp side are only seven points behind Winchester who sit in sixth place.

Morgan knows his club are in a relegation scrap, where every game counts between now and the end of the season.

‘We have a league game every weekend between now and the end of the season,’ said Morgan.

‘Only the top four teams can consider themselves safe and the rest of us have to fight it out.

‘All the games have a lot riding on them.

‘We have won both our games since Christmas and shown we are capable of getting up the league.

‘It is important we keep building on that, though Winchester will be a big test.’

The home team make one change from the team who did so well last week, with forward Will Phillips unavailable.

Chris Nicholls gets a deserved chance at prop forward, with Ian French moving into the second row.

Darren Crabb shifts to the back-row as the forwards aim to provide a winning platform once again.

They were excellent against Weybridge but know they have to step up their game even more against local rivals Winchester.

‘Winchester held Gosport to a draw two weeks ago so we know they are a good team,’ said Morgan.

‘We lost narrowly at their place earlier in the season, in a game we felt we should have won.

‘If we can build on last week’s performance then we will give ourselves every chance.’

One area Portsmouth will need to improve is in their goal kicking after missing many chances in the last game.

Title-chasing United Services have been boosted by an influx of new players ahead of their Hampshire one game at lowly Romsey.

The visitors could give debuts to scrum-half Nathan Bond, outside-half Scott Carter, centre Ross Fairburn and hooker Mark Giddings, who have all arrived from Chichester.

‘They have signed just before the deadline and will strengthen us for the final run-in,’ said US director of rugby Simon Burns.

‘It is never easy at Romsey on a heavy pitch but we have to make sure there are no slip-ups.’

In Hampshire two, Southsea Nomads host fourth-placed Chineham at Furze Lane.

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