Pumas keen to Lock in title

Harry Cripps
Harry Cripps
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Head coach Jim Pearce has banned any mention of promotion this season but Locks Heath Pumas are on the verge of winning the Hampshire two title.

With four games left the Pumas have a seven-point lead at the top of the table and remain unbeaten in 14 outings.

Pearce’s team have amassed 525 points and will be favourites to add to that tally at mid-table Fawley tomorrow.

The coach is convinced the club are ready to play at a higher level but knows they still have work to do to ensure that happens.

‘We now approach probably the most important few weeks in the club’s history,’ said Pearce.

‘Our pre-season target was promotion and we are so close to achieving that.

‘The most important thing is to get continuity in selection, train hard and keep on winning.

‘Our fate really is in our own hands.

‘I have spoken to the league and it is still not sure whether it will be one or two teams going up.

‘If it is just one then we need to remain unbeaten.’

Pearce knows it won’t be easy as Locks Heath still have to face closest rivals Chineham and Ventnor.

The Isle of Wight side are likely to bring a strong squad across the Solent to try to get revenge for the Pumas’ narrow win earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, going to second-placed Chineham and their sloping pitch with all to play for won’t be an easy task either.

Before that, though, Pumas will need to be wary of the Oilmen, who possess a good front row and pacy wingers.

‘Their pitch is next to a lake and can be a bit boggy,’ said Pearce.

‘We have to be prepared for it.’

Pumas’ success this season has been built around a successful recruiting campaign which brought a number of experienced players to the club.

They were also able to retain the services of club stalwarts Nick Destefano and Tom O’Grady, instead of seeing them retire, and keeping the team ethos alive.

Alongside them excellent club men, Alex Ainscough, Kent Streek, Charlie Hayes, Damien Sambrook, Joel Stocker and Matt Newton have all contributed to this season’s success story.

Harry Cripps, Freddie Hoare and captain Liam Moggeridge have also led from the front and given all to the cause.

Meanwhile, Pumas have been boosted by the arrival of key figures during the season, including the vastly-experienced Jon Barfoot, Matt Thurston, Ben Chambers, Gavin Hart, Tom Chance, Mark Tuckey and Cary Aston.

New winger Stuart Forbes, a doctor who moved into the area, is the leading try scorer with 18 tries already this season.

‘We are ready for promotion,’ said Pearce.

‘If we go up then the mindset may have to change, as will the way we prepare for games.

‘We have watched a few Hampshire one games this season and feel we can more than hold our own at that level.’

Locks heath Pumas: Hayes, Forbes, Aston, Chance, Sambrook, Destefano, Moggeridge, Cripps, Parks, Hoare, Streek, Tuckey, Ainscough, Campbell, Barfoot. Replacements : Adams, Stocker, Hamlett