Naive Portsmouth let cup final place slip away

Dan Gates scored for Portsmouth
Dan Gates scored for Portsmouth
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Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Portsmouth suffered Hampshire Cup semi-final heartbreak as a last-minute try condemned them to a 32-27 defeat at the hands of National League Basingstoke.

The city club had victory in their grasp but, not for the first time this season, threw it away.

The clock had run down when Basingstoke missed with a last-minute penalty and all the home side had to do to triumph was put the restart out of play.

Instead, they opted for a long drop-out upfield enabling Basingstoke to run the ball at them and score the winning try in the corner.

‘To lose with the last play of the game is hard to take,’ said Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler.

‘We were trying desperately from the sidelines to get the message to the players to put the ball out but again we showed our naivity and inability to close games out.

‘But I am still proud as punch with the players and the improvement they have shown.

‘At the start of the season there is no way we could have run a National League side so close.

‘In fact we murdered them over the 80 minutes but only managed to succeed with one kick out of seven.

‘Kicking goals has been a problem for us all season.’

The teams sounded each other out in a scrappy first half with the visitors drawing first blood with a converted try after 20 minutes. The ball popped out the back of a home scrum to present their scrum-half with an easy chance.

Portsmouth hit back on the half-hour with open-side wing-forward, Adam Long, on hand to take an inside ball, after four or five phases of play, and crash over.

Trailing 13-5 at the break Portsmouth stepped it up in the second period to score four good tries but each time they relaxed to let Basingstoke back into the game.

John Nicholls scored from a catch and drive at a line-out, prop forward Dan Sargeant went over following a good hand-off and winger Dan Gates got a good try.

In the closing stages, New Zealander Ben Whitley looked to have won the game for the home side when he made a superb break on half-way and outstripped the Basingstoke defence to go under the posts.

‘Though the neutrals have enjoyed another terrific game of rugby, from a coach’s point of view it is frustrating,’ said Chandler.

‘We outplayed them but the difference was they took their chances and we didn’t.

‘At times, when we were camped in their twenty-two, we tried too hard to score.

‘We have to take into account that our team is full of kids and they are still learning.

‘But it was another game we should have won and even the Basingstoke contingent agreed we deserved to win.’