Rugby: Scratch Portsmouth pipped for promotion

PORTSMOUTH'S bid to win promotion to London League One with a seriously depleted team in the play-off match at Southend ended in gallant failure.

However, the 36-15 scoreline in favour of the home side was no reflection of how well Portsmouth played and the victory owed more to the kicking success of Southend's Ali Chambers than anything else.

But the club were bitterly disappointed that they had to play the match with most of their first-team squad on an end-of-season tour of Bulgaria.

The climax to their season had to be played out with a side comprising reserves and veterans.

Captain for the day Neil Styles said: 'We're disappointed as we know if we'd had the full-strength side out we'd have won.'

Southend outscored Portsmouth only by three tries to two and that was a fairer reflection of a competitive, entertaining game, although it has to be said that the visitors conceded far too many penalties from which Chambers exacted due revenge.

Considering Portsmouth began the match with only five of the side who had been in the starting line-up for the league decider at Canterbury a fortnight before, those who prepared the side and those who played could hold their heads high.

If the side had played with anything like that spirit and commitment in the previous game at Canterbury, there would surely have been no need for the play-off.