Portsmouth need to make a statement now as they look to muscle in on the top two

Noah Cannon is back on wing duties for Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
Noah Cannon is back on wing duties for Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
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Portsmouth’s promotion credentials are on the line as they travel to Old Tiffinians in London three south west on Saturday.

Senior coach Neil McRoberts accepts his team can afford few if any more slip-ups this season.

Their disappointing defeat at Warlingham in their last game was a big set-back in their bid to claim one of the top two places.

It handed the initiative to their main rivals Winchester and Battersea Ironsides.

Winchester head the table on 64 points with Battersea Ironsides on 58 points in second place.

Portsmouth are just one point behind on 57 points with United Services Portsmouth on 55 points also in contention.

It promises to be a thrilling finale to the season with the contenders having to hold their nerve.

McRoberts is confident his team will do that.

He said: ‘We know there is little margin for error..

‘The players admit that they didn't perform and let themselves down at Warlingham.

‘They were frustrated to have the Hampshire Bowl game against Trojans called off last weekend.

‘That was a blow but they are itching to get back playing.

‘There is a determination in the squad to put things right and get our league campaign back on track.

‘They want to go out there and make a point.

‘All the games between now and the end of the season are massive.’

Portsmouth are boosted by the return of some influential players.

None more so than captain Darren Leggett who returns from injury to bolster the forwards.

In the three-quarters Cam Duffus returns at outside-half and Noah Cannon is back on wing duties.

McRoberts feels he has enough quality in his squad to be top.

They just have to keep putting it together in each game.

He said: ‘We know when we get it right we have more than enough to beat anyone.

‘It is a case of making a statement in every game we play.

‘We had a cracking game against Old Tiffinians earlier in the season.

‘Old Boy’s teams are always dangerous, particularly if you allow a lot of loose broken play.

‘With that in mind we have to grab the game by the scruff of the neck from the start.

‘We can’t afford to be slow out of the blocks.

‘Controlled, hard, physical uncompromising rugby is what we are aiming for.

‘We must look to control the game by playing our structures.

‘That is what we didn’t do at Warlingham.’

It is the start of an important couple of weeks for Portsmouth when they will be tested to the full.

A derby against United Services and a clash against current second-placed side Battersea Ironsides are on the horizon.