Portsmouth aim to build on progress against leaders

Portsmouth's Matt Gronow
Portsmouth's Matt Gronow
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Portsmouth are confident they can put the brakes on Basingstoke’s perfect start as the two Hampshire rivals meet in London South One at Rugby Camp (3pm).

The Hilsea-based club chalked up their first win of the season at Sutton & Epsom last weekend – and coach Ian Chandler believes they can build on that.

‘There is no reason why we can’t take them if we play to our true potential,’ said Chandler.

‘It will be tough because they have made a great start in their bid to go straight back up to National League rugby.

‘The game will be a contrast of styles as Basingstoke are a much more forward-orientated side, compared to our running rugby.

‘If our forwards repeat last week’s performance, there is no reason why we can’t hold them up front. Then, if we can get 50/50 possession, I am convinced we can beat them.

‘It would be nice to chalk up our first home win.’

After a disappointing start at Dover, Portsmouth showed a huge improvement in going close to beating top-side Chichester the following week.

Last week’s win at Sutton & Epsom was particularly pleasing as Portsmouth suffered a series of late withdrawals because of injury and illness.

The young back-row of Adam Long, Richard Farmer and Will Brock are showing increasing maturity every game and Chandler believes they are a match for anyone on their day.

The squad has also been boosted by the arrival of wing-forward Rhys Bowen from university – another outstanding prospect in the eyes of Chandler.

In the forwards, Tom Hankey and Luke Richardson reappear and scrum-half Will Carpenter has recovered from concussion. Influential outside-half Andy Barnes returns from injury, and 37-year-old try-scoring winger Matt Gronow has delayed his return to the veterans side for another week.

‘You can see the improvement in our performances each week and the more the players are together, the better it will get,’ said Chandler.

‘We have scored 10 tries in the past two games and the intention again is to move the ball around.

‘Basingstoke beat us in the final play of the game last season in the Hampshire Cup.

‘That was down to gifting them the winning score with a quickly-taken drop-out.

‘We musn’t show such naivety again.’

Portsmouth: Duffus, Gates, Bion, Richards, Gronow, Barnes, Carpenter, Sargent, Hoolihan, Hankey, Richardson, Lynch, Long, Brock, Farmer, Bowen, French, Cuming.