Portsmouth fire up survival bid

Ian French made his 300th Portsmouth appearance. Picture: Neil Marshall (170106-02)
Ian French made his 300th Portsmouth appearance. Picture: Neil Marshall (170106-02)
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Portsmouth handed themselves a London two south west lifeline by beating Old Reigatian 38-26 at Rugby Camp on Saturday.

The hosts raised their game magnificently to beat the third-placed visitors and keep their hopes of avoiding relegation alive.

It sets up a dramatic final day when any one of three sides – Portsmouth, Andover and Effingham & Leatherhead – could end up in the final relegation spot.

All three face difficult assignments away from home – with Portsmouth having the toughest at second-placed Camberley.

Assistant coach Jim Pearce admits it is impossible to predict.

‘This is a great result for us and keeps us in with a chance,’ he said.

‘We asked the players to raise their game and they certainly did that.

‘It was probably one of our best performances of the season, if not the best. Hopefully we have not left it too late.

‘We can go to Camberley with greater confidence of coming away with something.

‘It won’t be easy so hopefully everyone will make themselves available.’

Portsmouth got off to just the start they needed with two early tries.

After nine minutes, winger Tom Whitehouse went over wide out following good crash ball in midfield.

Six minutes later forward Darren Leggett benefited from good continuity play to force his way over the line from close range.

Portsmouth then proceeded to let Old Reigatian back into the game.

The visitors scored two converted tries with Simon Farnes squeezing one in between to give the hosts a 17-14 lead at the break.

‘We played against the elements in the first 40 minutes which we felt was worth 10 points,’ added Pearce.

It looked ominous when the visitors took the lead after the break. However, Portsmouth hit back in fine style to take charge of the game.

Forward Anthony Fookes scored two catch-and-drive tries in the space of six minutes – before Portsmouth extended their lead further with the try of the game.

Player-coach Ben Dudley and Dan Neville combined superby to put Farnes in for his second try.

And while Portsmouth conceded a late try, Old Reigatian were out of contention by then.

Pearce said: ‘We didn’t let off the gas in the second period after making one mistake. Our opponents defended well but we got the ball into the right areas and kept our composure. We closed the game out well.’

Pearce also paid tribute to captain Ian French, who celebrated his 300th senior appearance for the club.

French, who has been with the club since his university days, has proved a real stalwart and his experience has been influential

Two seasons ago Portsmouth pulled off a great escape on the final day of the season. Pearce is hoping for a repeat next weekend.