Match Report from Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby : Gosport & Fareham 12 Chobham 17
After three consecutive local derbies which had yielded three wins for Chob, it was now time to consult the satnav and head down the M3 to the south coast where Gosport & Fareham awaited. The pre-match chat coming from the foreshore was that Gos were on a roll and were a completely different side from the one Chobham had hammered at Fowler’s Wells back in November. Whilst the natural reaction is to discount this, there was more than a grain of truth in it. First the G&F team sheet showed only 6 names remaining from the earlier fixture as the considerable Navy contingent were now all available and secondly Gos were starting to build a run of form, winning away at Cobham last week and seeing off Guildford the week before. With their strong home support they are very confident on their own patch. The Chobham coaching team of Ryan Gregory and Tony Paul were anxious to avoid this fixture becoming the proverbial banana skin, so the focus was on taking this game very seriously particularly after the adrenaline busting win the previous week over league leaders Wimbledon. The Chobham team sheet showed only a couple of tweaks with Alec Thomson taking over the 15 jersey from the unavailable Mikey MacDonald and Callum Edwards starting for the injured Aaran Mawson. The fit again Liam Monaghan stepped onto the bench. There was no sign of spring in the air in Hampshire as grey skies and a strong south-westerly blowing down the pitch provided a chilly backdrop to the afternoon’s proceedings.
The visitors got off to a perfect start. From the kick off, Ian Barnes fielded the return kick and under pressure off loaded superbly to Josh Devitt on half way. The lively Devitt then weaved his way through Gosport’s fragmented defence to score under the posts. Alex Seers knocked over the conversion. 2 minutes played; Gosport & Fareham 0 Chobham 7. This was just the start the visitors wanted, with the strong wind at their backs, they needed to bank plenty of points. However despite this excellent start, the game meandered in midfield. Chob’s frequent attempts at their flowing style came to nothing as a combination of a succession of handling errors and silly infringements prevented them building the territory and pressure that was needed. Instead there was an endless stream of scrums and although under pressure Gos resolutely cleared their lines with number 8 Chris Thompson prominent. In keeping with the mood, on 11 minutes, even the metronomic boot of Seers failed as he pushed a penalty attempt wide and then a driven maul which had progressed 30 metres up field was pinged in sight of the try line for “truck and trailer”. The well-oiled Chobham machine wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders with only scrum half Barnes looking anything like his pugnacious self. Then within 5 minutes of each other we had the unusual sight of both 10’s having 10 minutes on the naughty step. As the half progressed, Gos gained confidence from their stubborn rear-guard and moved onto the front foot with centre Wayne Drugan prominent on the charge. On 38 minutes, after pressure in the narrow channels, Gos scored a deserved try with scrum half Wes Drugan picking off a gap and darting over in the corner. No extras. Gosport & Fareham 5 Chobham 7. Chobham then had two attempts from the tee to increase their tally. With Seers still off, Thomson stepped up and hit the post with his first attempt but arrowed over the second to nudge the scoreboard forward. Gosport & Fareham 5 Chobham 10. Half time.
Coaches Gregory and Paul didn’t mince words in the half time team talk. The errors of the first half had to be eradicated and the defensive shape and commitment needed to be first rate given they were now facing a strong wind.
The game continued with its scrappy theme as both sides battled the conditions and each team looked for ascendancy but generally cancelled each other out. Gos used the wind well to pin Chob back but lacked the guile or pace to unpick the visitor’s strong defence. As frustration crept in home 8 Thompson saw a flash of yellow and Chob used the man advantage to good effect, taking the game into the home 22. On 53 minutes, after a series of controlled phases and a burst by Ben Sims, the Gos defence was stretched allowing Devitt to arrow through a gap to score under the sticks. Seers converted. Gosport & Fareham 5 Chobham 17. Gos then had flanker Craig Chance in the bin, closely followed by Chob’s Jamie Evans both being the unfortunate last man for cumulative team offences. This revolving door accentuated the disjointed nature of the game, and it was petering out to its conclusion in the final stages before Wes Drugan added his second try following some close quarter drives form the home pack. Brother Wayne converted and secured Gos a valuable bonus point as they continue their climb into mid table safety. Full time; Gosport & Fareham 12 Chobham 17
This was a determined display from Gos who gained confidence as the game progressed as they found an unusually off colour Chob lacking the accuracy which their game usually delivers. However, this was a potential slip up fixture and Chob will be well satisfied to have successfully navigated a positive result with their pedigree showing through. Sometimes in long seasons, playing in all conditions, the result is more important than the performance and this was true today. The Chobham bus returned to Surrey in a very happy mood, with another win, the 11th on the bounce and confidence riding high. Chob stay in second place keep up the pressure on leaders Wimbledon who make the trip to Gos next week. Chob will be hoping that Gos can do them a favour.
Nigel Guy, Director of Rugby, Chobham RF