Services are United in survival fight

United Services Portsmouth, red and blue, believe they can stay in London three south west     Picture: Keith Woodland
United Services Portsmouth, red and blue, believe they can stay in London three south west Picture: Keith Woodland
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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United Services Portsmouth accept they have a big fight on their hands to maintain their place in London three south west.

The Burnaby Road club face a crucial home derby against Eastleigh on their 4G pitch, looking for a win that could lift them out of the bottom three (2pm).

After winning promotion from Hampshire one last season with a 100-per-cent record, Services started well but since then have struggled to find any consistency.

Director of rugby Matt Davis admits a crippling injury list hasn’t helped their cause.

‘Our injury list is huge, particularly in the three-quarters,’ he said.

‘We do not have any of our injured players coming back at the moment and have now also suffered another blow with the loss of winger Steve Gee.

‘He has been an almost ever-present for us and will be a big loss.

‘But that has been the story of our season, with key players missing at vital times.

‘Eastleigh are a well-established team in this league and will present us with another tough game.

‘They are a good side and aggressive in all areas of the pitch.

‘Our performances have mainly been good and there hasn’t been a team yet that have embarrassed us.

‘We are a young side which is still adapting to the higher level of rugby.

‘Only a few have played at this level before and sometimes this shows.’

Services have shown, when near full-strength and at their best, they can more than hold their own against the top sides in the league.

They can boast a league and cup double over leaders Camberley, which none of the other teams have managed.

It has clearly been a big step up from local rugby, though, and a few lessons have been learnt.

At this level if teams switch off they will find themselves punished, which was something that didn’t always happen in Hampshire one.

Davis, however, believes Services possess the determination and quality to stay up.

‘I am confident that we can stay in this league,’ added Davis.

‘Even when losing games, we have still managed to pick up bonus points that will help our bid for survival.

‘We have a good squad of players who are technically skilful enough to play in this league.

‘The coaching set-up, led by Jimmy Taylor as head coach and supported by Keith Molyneaux and Andy Tart, is outstanding.

‘It is where we want to be.

‘We have excellent facilities and staying up will also help us attract new players.

‘The Royal Navy Rugby Union, Garmin UK, CPG Logistics and the White Horse pub in Southsea all help us provide good opportunities for rugby in the city.

‘We have consistently put two teams out for all fixtures this season, which is the first time for a long time.’