Trio return to boost Portsmouth

Matt Peters makes a welcome return to the Portsmouth ranks

Matt Peters makes a welcome return to the Portsmouth ranks

Tom Blackburn helps Havant to put the pressure on CS Rugby 1663 at Hooks Lane Picture: Keith Woodland

Havant get the job done in thriller

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Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler expects nothing less than a win when his side return to London one south action against Sutton & Epsom tomorrow (2pm).

The Rugby Camp club are looking to secure a double over the division’s bottom side, having comfortably won the away encounter 28-10 earlier in the season.

Chandler’s biggest worry, however, is the weather, which could turn out to be his troops’ main enemy.

‘Hopefully, it won’t turn out to be a slog through the wind, rain and mud,’ said Chandler. ‘Those conditions can prove to be a great leveller.

‘If it turns out like that, we still have the players to deal with it but we would much prefer to play running rugby and use our pace in the wide areas.

‘We beat them up at their place with a weakened side and they are still without a win in the league this season.

‘This is a game we have to win and it will be a major disappointment if we don’t.

‘Games like these, though, have proved to be our Achilles heel in the past so we still have to go out and earn the right to play.’

Chandler will be looking for his side to put their defeat at Chichester, just before Christmas, behind them and start the second half of the season in a positive fashion.

The aim is to gain a top-half-of-the-table finish at the end of the season – a position Chandler believes will reflect the true quality of his side.

At Chichester, Portsmouth were outmuscled and outfought in the forwards.

The city club shouldn’t have the same problems against Sutton & Epsom, though, thanks to the return of forwards Rich Farmer, Darren Crabb and Matt Peters.

‘The three returning players give us a lot more pace, power and aggression,’ said Chandler.

‘Rich Farmer joined us from Havant in the summer after returning from university and is a major coup.

‘He is an outstanding athlete, is very quick, possesses excellent ball skills and is a quality player.

‘The return of Crabb and Peters will make us more competitive and aggressive.’

Portsmouth are also boosted by the return of Lee Chandler and have the luxury of leaving out their Hampshire Under-20 players Rob Gicquel, Charlie Cutler and Adam Long.

‘We have 12 games left and seven of them are at home,’ said Chandler. ‘Most of the games are against teams around us in the league so I am expecting us to win the home games and pick up a couple of away wins.

‘If we can do that then we can ensure a top-half finish.’

Portsmouth: Bion, Dufus, Chandler, Richards, Gee, Barnes, O’Connor, Cripps, Hoolihan, Hankey, Richardson, Crabb, Peters, Bowen, Farmer, Sargent, French, Carpenter

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