Derby glory could spark Services title party

Graham Butterworth scores against Fareham Heathens. Picture: Mick Young (150090-05)
Graham Butterworth scores against Fareham Heathens. Picture: Mick Young (150090-05)
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United Services can virtually seal the Hampshire one crown with derby success against Petersfield at Penns Place.

The Burnaby Road outfit, who are still unbeaten this term, have a 15-point lead with just three games left to play.

However, their player-coach Graham Butterworth is refusing to take victory for granted.

‘We know Petersfield will be a very difficult proposition on their own ground,’ he said.

‘This is a potential banana skin of a game for us.

‘There is a lot of pressure on us because we are going into the game unbeaten and having picked up a bonus point in every game.

‘Teams admit we are a scalp they want to take.

‘Fareham Heathens pushed us all the way last week and told us their aim was to try to prevent us getting the bonus point.

‘Their forwards were fantastic, aggressive and well-motivated.

‘We know Petersfield will be exactly the same and we will have to pick up some areas of our game.

‘Our work around the fringes of the breakdown was weak and that is something we need to improve.’

Services are without Will Pickett, who broke his arm against Heathens, but have promising 20-year-old lock forward Jordan Cracknell coming back.

In the replacements, Martin Hoskins returns after missing three weeks.

The impressive Liam Bailes continues in the pack, where the 19-year-old University of Portsmouth student is making a big impact.

Bailes has played a key part in Services’ success with his fearless approach and ability to get around the pitch.

The pressure is on the visitors to remain unbeaten in their final games and gain promotion.

Butterworth insists the club are ready to recapture some of their old glories when they played at a much higher level.

‘At the start of the season, the director of rugby and I had a two-year plan to go up,’ he said.

‘If it happens a year early, we will be delighted.

‘We know our club has an illustrious past and, although times have changed, we believe we can move back to a higher level.

‘There is no reason why in the next 10 years we cannot lift ourselves back up to level five where the likes of Havant and Basingstoke are.

‘We are very much at the beginning of that journey, though.

‘The club is ideally situated right in the middle of the city and next to the university.

‘Our facilities are first class and we play our home games on one of the best pitches in the south of England.

‘We feel there is still a certain kudos about playing on our ground.

‘If we go up into London three south west then we will have to step up again but there is a lot of hard work going in behind the scenes to help us do that.’

United Services: Blewitt, Peters, Gee, Molyneaux, Carter, Taylor, Smith B, Powell, Davis, Gilliland, Cracknell, Bailes, Guyll, Butterworth, Porter. Replacements: Hoskins, Rolfe, Connor