Hampshire Bowl final defeat completes hat-trick of near misses for Portsmouth
Portsmouth ended the season with further disappointment by losing 34-24 against Eastleigh in the final of the Hampshire Bowl at Rugby Camp.
For the third time in recent weeks, Neil McRoberts’ side ended up the bridesmaid rather than the bride.
They narrowly missed out on promotion from London three south west, finishing behind Winchester and Battersea Ironsides.
It also comes a week after they fell at the final hurdle with a first-ever visit to Twickenham.
Portsmouth suffered an RFU Senior Vase semi-final defeat at the hands of Honition.
And McRoberts felt they could have lifted the Hampshire Bowl.
‘It was a game I felt that we let slip out of our grasp,' said McRoberts.
‘When you play against a team playing a level above, you can't afford to concede the early points we did.
‘Eastleigh did have first use of the strong wind, but our defensive structures didn't work.
‘They used the conditions to take a 27-0 lead early in the second half.
‘That left us chasing the game.
‘It would have been easy to capitulate at that point, but the lads can be proud of the way they fought back.
‘We scored four tries and got to within ten points of them with eight minutes left to play.
‘Unfortunately, poor decision making from us in midfield gifted them a try.
‘That gave them the breathing space they needed to get home.
‘If they hadn't scored that try then I genuinely believe we would have gone on and won it.
‘We won the second half and looked better than a team playing a level above us.
‘It was a shame that we just left ourselves with too much to do.'
Noah Cannon began the fightback after Eastleigh had stretched their lead early in the second half.
The winger produced a trademark piece of deadly finishing to round off a good move.
Experienced back-row forward Tim Snowden forced his way over from close-range soon afterwards.
When winger Tom Harrison powered his way over for a try suddenly at 27-17, the home side were back in the game.
They had the momentum and looked in control but then a momentary lapse set them back.
There was still time for Jackson Clarke to add a fourth try but by then it was too late.
McRoberts added: ‘It was a shame the team ended up not winning anything after all their efforts and hard work.
‘Next season it is all about adding consistency to the quality we have in our squad.’