Services survival fight goes down to the wire

Phil Gilliland & Co will look to secure United Services' London three south west status against Old Tiffinians    Picture: Keith Woodland
Phil Gilliland & Co will look to secure United Services' London three south west status against Old Tiffinians Picture: Keith Woodland
Luke Barfoot will make his 100th league appearance. Picture: Neil Marshall

Havant hope normal service will resume at home

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United Services Portsmouth face a tense final day, needing to guarantee their London three south west status by beating Old Tiffinians at Burnaby Road tomorrow (3pm).

A five-point bonus point win for the hosts will ensure they stay up but anything less will leave them relying on other results.

Services start the day one point above Old Mid-Whitgiftian and one behind Eastleigh with their two closest rivals meeting in their final game of the season.

It couldn’t be any closer but Services director of rugby Matt Davis is backing his team to do enough to avoid relegation.

He said: ‘Our fate is in our own hands and we know exactly what we have to do.

‘A bonus-point win will keep us up.

‘Our promotion from Hampshire one last season was hard-earned and we don’t want to go straight back at the first time of asking.

‘After our performances this season there is little doubt that we belong in this league and it is where we want to be.

‘We have only been heavily beaten once and in all the other games we have been very competitive.

‘On our day we have shown that we can beat the top sides.

‘Unfortunately, our day has not been regular enough and we have lacked a little consistency at times.

‘The gap between Hampshire one and the London league has been bigger than I thought it would be.

‘It has been a big learning curve for us all but it will stand us in good stead for next season, if we stay up.’

Davis was encouraged by his team’s performance at Trojans even though they lost and is hoping they can take that forward.

The home side are without injured wingers Steve Gee and Ross Fairbairn but still have a strong squad to choose from.

Prop-forward Luke Davies and scrum-half Ben Smith have had a big influence this season and both are included in the starting line-up.

As a club, Davis feels Services are continuing to develop and becoming better equipped to playing at the higher level.

The players are gradually getting used to the extra travelling involved and the commitment required.

Injuries, though, have handicapped them and Davis has been unable to field the same team on two consecutive occasions.

But Services are now focused on doing what they need to survive.

‘Old Tiffinians have nothing to play for but that could work one of two ways,’ said Davis.

‘They could come down to us with a weakened team or at the same time it will allow them the freedom to play their rugby.

‘It is what we do that is more important.

‘We have to go out and impose our game on them without chasing it too early.

‘Our first priority is to win the game and after that try to score the four tries we need for the bonus point.’

United Services: Tom Blewitt, Danny Johnson, Mason Bond, Luke Peters, Chris Marriott, Jimmy Taylor, Ben Smith, Will Rolfe, Dave Reed, Luke Davies, Phil Gilliland, Gareth Guyll, Liam Geoghen, Mayowa Olonilua, Guy Snowball, Ollie Bowles, Sam Porter, Alex Doolan, Tom Knight.