Veteran Gronow turns on the style with early brace of tries

Matt Gronow scores the opening try for Portsmouth
Matt Gronow scores the opening try for Portsmouth
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Doncaster Knights Rugby Club and former Havant rugby player Ian Williams. Picture: Doncaster Knights Rugby Club/PA Wire

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HE may be the old stager of the team but Matt Gronow showed he’s still a deadly finisher in Portsmouth’s 33-38 defeat to Chichester at Rugby Camp.

Gronow has 11 years on the next oldest member of the Portsmouth side.

But the 37-year-old proved he can still cut it with a brace of tries as the city club ran London One South title-chasers Chichester so close.

Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler was full of praise for his veteran winger.

‘He scored two tries out of nothing and is still a superb finisher,’ said Chandler.

‘For his first try, the Chichester full-back saw the old guy in front of him and thought he had more time than he did.

‘Matt was under the posts before he knew it and for his second he won a race for the touchdown from a kick ahead.

‘His physique, fitness and dedication allows him still to be effective at this very competitive level when we call him up.

‘He is a great clubman and last week was happy turning out for the third team.’

The city club took the game to the powerful visitors from the start, opting to move the ball around rather than try to take the big Chichester pack head-on.

Tactically, it worked perfectly, with Gronow grabbing his brace and Dan Neville putting new centre Gareth Richards under the posts.

Andy Barnes kicked two conversions to give the home side a 19-11 lead at the break.

‘When the style of rugby we try to play clicks, it is very exciting and difficult to defend against,’ said Chandler.

After the break, though, Portsmouth were disrupted by the loss of forwards Darren Crabbe and Ben Cumins and the Chichester pack strangled the game.

Regular scores, including a penalty try, gave the Sussex side a clear lead but Portsmouth hit back.

Richard Farmer capped a fine debut with a try and Portsmouth were awarded a penalty try at the death.

‘We lost a bit of momentum when our two forwards went off at the start of the second half and Chichester took advantage,’ said Chandler.

‘Our penalty try didn’t come until the final seconds so we were never going to win it.

‘It was important, though, because it gave us a second losing bonus point.

‘We could easily have beaten the league leaders and it was a 100-per-cent improvement on last week at Dover.

‘The lads now know they can take on and compete with the top teams in our league.’

And though Gronow could well find himself in the veteran team next week, it may be wrong to count him out of an extended run in the first team.