Derby duel no place for faint-hearted

Ben Madigan   Picture: Malcolm Wells
Ben Madigan Picture: Malcolm Wells
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Gosport & Fareham and Havant go head to head in a massive London one south derby at Gosport Park tomorrow (2pm).

Recent meetings between the two clubs suggests that once again it won’t be a place for the faint-hearted.

Apart from local bragging rights, both teams have a lot at stake, with just nine points separating the two in the league.

The hosts view it as a great opportunity to close the gap, and at the same time put a bit more daylight between themselves and the bottom three.

Home coach Neil McRoberts believes the outcome will depend on which team handles the pressure the best.

‘This has been the premier club fixture in the county for a few seasons now,’ said McRoberts.

‘Form goes out the window in games like this and it is whoever handles the pressure best who comes out on top.

‘Both teams are capable of scoring lots of points with the ball in hand.

‘But it is all about how the teams manage the periods when they find themselves up against it without the ball.

‘It is who can stand up and raise their intensity level the most.’

Gosport make a few enforced changes but have a number of key players returning.

Prop-forward Tom Blackburn is ruled out by a fractured eye socket but Ben Lanigan is available to slot back into the front row.

McRoberts is also delighted to have back-row forward Ben Madigan available for his first league appearance of the season following work commitments.

Experienced scrum-half Wes Dugan has recovered from his chest injury and regular outside-half Alex Duncombe partners him after being rested in the last game.

There is a doubt over centre Kieron McRoberts because of a rib injury, but Sam Foster is back to fill in if necessary.

Havant are looking to build on their derby win over Tottonians, which ended a five-game losing streak.

Head coach Will Knight knows exactly what to expect at Gosport and insists his team will need to be at their best.

‘Gosport are a difficult team to beat, particularly on their home turf,’ said Knight.

‘We know that they come at us and keep coming at us for 80 minutes.

‘If we allow ourselves to get involved in a wrestling match then that will suit them.

‘It will be up to us to try and play our rugby and utilise our potent attacking threat in the three-quarters.

‘If we can get on the front foot, our three-quarters can be a handful for any side.

‘But we will have to match Gosport’s never-say-die approach and try to out-think them.

‘We know that we will have to be at our best to get anything but there is rarely a lot to choose between the two teams.’

Back-row forward Steve Cruddas is a doubt and faces a fitness test but Joe Davis is ruled out by work commitments.

Gosport & Fareham: Jack Brawn, Rory Penfold, Dave Cleary, Wayne Dugan, Kieran McRoberts, Sam Foster, Alex Duncombe, 
Wes Dugan, Ben Lanigan, Danny Gamblin, Freddie O’Toole, 
Tim Snowden, Ben Madigan, Ben Roberts, Mark Pollard, 
Chris Thompson, Nathan Titchener, Max Page

Havant: Harry Carr, Scott Morris, Loz Blackburn, 
Richard Gumbleton, Ben Brierley, Dave Sweeney, Joel Knight, 
Jake Hewitt, Grant Morris, Luke Marks, Jerome Trail, 
Jack Ward-Golden, Jake Biggs, Harison Young, Nial Copeland, 
Luke Barfoot, Tim Miller, Richard James, Gav Hart, Dan Porter