FULL GALLERY: Hampshire make solid start on the road to Twickenham

Joel Knight. Picture: Chris MoorhouseJoel Knight. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Joel Knight. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Hampshire made the perfect start in their bid for a third successive Twickenham appearance.

Ian Chandler’s troops delivered an impressive 56-35 Bill Beaumont County Championship curtain-raiser win over North Midlands at Gosport Park on Saturday.

The home side scored eight tries on their way to a well-deserved victory.

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Chandler was delighted with the manner of his team’s success.

The coach said: ‘It was better than we could ever have expected.

‘We brought in seven new players and they all fitted in well and made good contributions.

‘North Midlands wanted to play a set-piece orientated game.

‘Eventually, though, we battled hard to negate their main weapons.

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‘We won it with our speed and mobility with our backs putting in an awesome display.

‘Our centre, Joel Knight, was man of the match by a country mile.

‘He gave the almost-perfect performance, tackling well and running hard at the opposition.

‘His ability allowed us to dominate in the midfield.

‘Joel scored two tries – his first under the posts after a clean break and his second coming after he had bulldozed over his opposite number.’

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Hampshire raced out of the blocks with a second-minute penalty from Grant Hancox.

Two tries quickly followed, the first from Havant ace Knight and another from Curtis Barnes.

The Portsmouth winger won the battle for the touchdown following a clever and calculated cross-field chip from Knight.

It was Barnes’ last action of the game, however, as he limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jake Caddy.

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The visitors hit back with a try but Hampshire extended their control with two more of their own.

Caddy showed a great turn of speed to score and Knight powered in for his second of the match.

Hancox converted both and also knocked over a penalty to put the hosts firmly in the driving seat.

Yet in reply two interception tries breathed new life into North Midlands.

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Chandler added: ‘All of a sudden we had let our opponents back into the game.

‘We knew we had to tighten things up. In the first half our scrum had come under a bit of pressure so we changed things at half-time.

‘New props, Luca Feretti and Armundus Morgan, scrummaged well and gave us a better platform.’

Within two minutes of the restart Hampshire re-established their superiority and made it count.

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Replacement back-row forward Joe Davis rounded the defence and soon after fellow Havant forward Harrison Young sauntered over for a try.

Caddy marked his debut by rounding things off for Hampshire by bringing up the half-century with his second try.

In the other pool game, Warwickshire beat Somerset 29-5 at Nuneaton.

Hampshire travel to Taunton to play Somerset on Saturday.

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