Portsmouth escape with ‘massive’ draw

Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Portsmouth maintained their London two south west status by the skin of their teeth with a 17-17 draw at Old Reigatians.

The draw gave the city club the point they needed to haul themselves to safety above Trojans and Weybridge Vandals.

After establishing a 17-5 lead, Portsmouth had to endure a late fightback by their hosts – keeping them at bay with some heroic defence.

‘We were very relieved to hear the final whistle,’ said director of rugby Ed Neville.

‘This is a massive result for the club and will make a big difference. Staying in this league is important to us for player retention and recruitment.

‘We have seen clubs go into a downward spiral after relegation and it is a slippery slope we didn’t want to get onto.

‘I have been convinced all along the players would do the business and keep us up.

‘It has been all about keeping the faith.

‘With the Rugby Football Union (RFU) looking to restructure the leagues at the end of next season, it was vital we stayed at this level.’

It took Portsmouth 35 minutes to settle their nerves with the game’s first score.

Curtis Barnes broke from his own 10-yard line and forward Adam Long was up in support to take the scoring pass.

Chris Morgan converted and Portsmouth soon added a second try.

Veteran centre Matt Gronow started and finished the move with a typical burst of pace which left the home defence for dead.

‘It was a typical piece of Gronow magic,’ said Neville.

Old Reigatians hit back at the start of the second period but then a marvellous piece of improvisation from captain Greg Hoolihan set up Dan Gates for a third visitors try.

After that it was all Reigatians as they hit back to level, leaving Portsmouth to endure a nail-biting finish.

‘Our season has been blighted by a horrendous sequence of injuries to key players,’ said Neville.

‘Without this I am convinced we would have been pushing at the other end of the table.

‘The players who stepped up and filled the gaps have to take a lot of credit for keeping us up.’