Portsmouth keen to bridge gap at Wells

Ryan Wilkie in possession for Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Portsmouth rise to call for ‘heart and desire’

Portsmouth have their sights set on breaking into the top three as they entertain struggling Tunbridge Wells in London One South at Rugby Camp.

An excellent 28-25 win at Hove last weekend kept them hot on the heels of the leading group.

Hat-trick hero Matt Gronow, however, returns to the veterans this weekend, with 22-year-old Jack Hazeldine given the task of filling his shoes.

The city club are unbeaten at home and are favourites to chalk up another win against visitors who have only won once so far this season.

'If we can build on last week then we could find ourselves up in third place,' said coach Ian Chandler.

'That would be a fantastic achievement.

'We played well in spells and must look to sustain it for longer periods.

'Also, we have to make sure we kick our goals because that has been our Achilles heel so far this season.

'We are also conceding far too many points for my liking and Tunbridge seeing that will feel they are in with a chance.

'Our target is to shut up shop and not allow Tunbridge any opportunities.'

Portsmouth, who experienced relegation from National League rugby last season, have built their success on youngsters.

At the start of the season, Chandler set out a three-year plan to get promoted and is delighted with the rapid progress already made.

He is also pleased his side have done well without sacrificing the basic principles of playing attractive running rugby.

The entertaining rugby is starting to pay off, with an increased number of spectators turning up at Rugby Camp to see an attractive game.

'This team is worth coming to see,' said Chandler.

'We are predominantly a local side with a lot of the players coming up through our junior ranks.

'The rewards of that are now coming through. They are young and will make mistakes but some of the running rugby they played last week was a delight to watch.

'We will work hard to keep this squad at the club, though it won't be easy because some might try to tempt them away.'

Jason Crabb and Will Brock return in the back-row after missing last week through injury but number-eight Matt Peters has returned to university in Exeter.

In the backs, Gronow has been allowed to put his slippers back on with the vets and centre Lee Chandler returns as a replacement after Naval duties.

Patrick Bion, Harry Hodell and James Botten are all on their way back from injury and will feature in the second team.

Portsmouth: Whitely, Gates, Cartmill, Ealey, Hazeldine, Young, Graham, Sargent, Hoolihan, Hankey, French, Crabb D, Long, Cummin, Fulford, Chandler L.