Services lose their grip on Plate

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

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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United Services blew their chance of appearing in the Hampshire Plate final after they suffered a narrow 22-18 defeat at the hands of Southampton University.

The visitors led 13-3 at the start of the second half but a ‘mad’ 10-minute spell allowed the students to get back into the game and establish a nine-point lead.

And despite a grandstand finish, which included a Craig Chance try, Services couldn’t find a way through for a winning score.

‘On reflection, we blew it,’ said coach Neil McRoberts.

‘We were in control for 70 of the 80 minutes but a mad 10 minutes of individual errors gifted them a couple of tries.

‘Unlike in the quarter-finals, we didn’t really impose ourselves and failed to get into the flow of our gameplan.

‘All credit to the University – it was a scrappy game and they closed it out at the end.

‘We have had a good season and it is a shame we couldn’t round it off with an appearance in a final.’

Services fell behind to an early penalty but soon hit back to take charge with an excellently-worked try from full-back Bob Hoskins.

They turned the ball over inside their own 22 and worked it through seven phases before fashioning an overlap for Hoskins to go over in the corner.

Fly-half Jack Brawn then added a penalty to put Services 8-3 ahead at half-time.

When Paul Connor drove over from 10 yards at the start of the second period, the visitors looked in complete charge.

‘One more score from us would have killed them off and we should have gone on to win from that point,’ said McRoberts.

But with 15 minutes remaining, Services lost their composure and threw the game away.

Tom Willoughby was sin-binned for killing the ball in his own 22 and poor decision-making enabled the students to score three quick-fire tries to establish a 22-13 lead.

Services gave themselves a late lifeline when Chance picked up and drove over from the base of a scrum but it proved too little, too late.

‘Despite this defeat, it has been a good season for the club after struggling last year,’ said McRoberts.

‘Our skipper Matt Davis has been a key figure and a lot of our improvement has been down to his leadership.

‘There is a lot of potential at the club and our aim next season is to challenge for a place in the top three of our league.’