Portsmouth still believe

Skipper Greg Hoolihan scored for Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (114006-10)
Skipper Greg Hoolihan scored for Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (114006-10)
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Portsmouth kept their London one south survival hopes alive with a 30-22 win over relegated Thanet Wanderers in Kent.

The Rugby Camp outfit are still in the relegation zone – three points behind closest rivals Trojans.

But the strugglers head into the final game of the season still believing they can survive.

Trojans visit Old Elthamians next weekend – with the hosts sitting in second spot.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth will host Dover at Rugby Camp.

And coach Ian Chandler is hopeful – on present form – his men can hold their nerve and earn a victory.

‘If we play like we did in the first half at Thanet then we should be okay,’ said the head coach.

‘Four and a quarter hours on a coach wasn’t the best preparation but we didn’t allow it to affect us.

‘We did the business in the first half – playing up the slope and against the wind.

‘At half-time we led 21-17 but then committed the usual crime of taking our foot off the pedal.

‘It was disappointing we didn’t go on and get the bonus-point win, though.’

Throughout the game the home side were happy to concede penalties rather than territory.

And Portsmouth full-back Andy Barnes made them pay, kicking six out of eight penalties.

An early Barnes effort put the visitors ahead.

But they were rocked as Thanet bounced back to lead 17-6 after 24 minutes with two converted tries and a penalty.

Barnes kicked a second penalty before Portsmouth got into their stride to establish a 21-17 interval lead.

Skipper Greg Hoolihan scored with a good catch-and-drive try from a line-out.

Then veteran Matt Gronow outwitted two defenders to add another soon afterwards.

Barnes extended Portsmouth’s lead with two more penalties at the start of the second period before the visitors fell asleep.

‘You could that see the players thought they had the game won,’ said Chandler.

‘It is a lesson we have been slow to learn all season.

‘Fortunately, when we needed to dig it out in the final 10 minutes, we did so.’

Chandler is hoping the failure to earn a bonus point won’t come back and haunt them on the final day of the season.

Staying in London one south is important to the club and the coach insists his side are more than good enough to compete in the league.

‘We have been horribly decimated by injuries this season,’ said Chandler.

‘When we have been able to field anywhere near a full-strength line-up, I believe we are a top-six side.

‘We need just one more big performance from the team.’