Morgan puts boot into Portsmouth’s rivals

Chris Morgan passes the ball away from a Portsmouth scrum. Picture: Sarah Standing (14954-9066)
Chris Morgan passes the ball away from a Portsmouth scrum. Picture: Sarah Standing (14954-9066)
Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Portsmouth came through a nervy, tense afternoon with their London Two south west lifeline intact after a 31-20 win over Effingham & Leatherhead at Rugby Camp.

The game remained in the balance until the final six minutes when scrum-half Chris Morgan kept his nerve to fire over three penalties.

Failure to pick up the bonus point, however, means the Norway Road club remain in the relegation zone with three games left to play.

The situation is tight with Portsmouth just a point behind nearest rivals Trojans with a game in hand.

Portsmouth’s first-team manager Nigel Morgan admitted the pressure of the situation got to all the players on Saturday.

‘Both teams went into the game knowing the points were vital in the relegation dogfight,’ he said.

‘And it showed because both were guilty of giving away silly penalties.

‘There were also four yellow cards- one for us and three for Effingham.

‘Getting the win was the main priority and we achieved that.

‘But I am disappointed we didn’t go on and grab the bonus point because we had the opportunities to do so.’

Portsmouth kicked off playing against a strong breeze and fell behind to an 11th-minute penalty.

The response was good, however, and veteran Matt Gronow, playing in the centre, once again made his quality count.

Gronow made a superb break up to the Effingham twenty-two where he fed winger Lee Norman to go over for a try in the corner.

After the visitors regained the lead with another penalty, Adam Long crashed over for the home side and Chris Morgan added the conversion to establish a 12-6 advantage.

That didn’t last long as the hosts suffered a double blow.

Front-row forward Ben Cumins was yellow carded and Portsmouth conceded a converted try to go in 13-12 in arrears at half-time.

‘We had problems up front all game because Effingham had a big set of forwards,’ said Nigel Morgan.

‘Too many penalties were conceded in this area and we lost a few balls against the head which was unusual for us.’

The game continued to see-saw in the second half, with Chris Morgan adding another penalty and converting a Curtis Barnes try to stretch the Portsmouth lead to 22-13.

Another converted try for the visitors left Portsmouth sweating until Chris Morgan hit his three penalties.

‘None of them were easy kicks and they were all from distance,’ said the first-team manager.

‘I think we missed a trick with the last one, though, and should have kicked for the corner.

‘Then we could have gone for a catch-and-drive in a bid to claim the bonus point.

‘But the situation remains the same and we need to win two out of our last three games to stay up.’