Bill Beaumont County Championship Division 2 South match report
by Richard V Isaacs

It’s all to play for in the final round of matches in the Bill Beaumont County Championship Division 2 South after Hampshire and Somerset played out a thrilling 36-36 draw in a pulsating contest at Gosport and Fareham on Saturday.

The lead changed hands on seven occasions as the two sides, both shorn of players from their opening day wins, battled it out but couldn’t be separated in front of a 400-strong crowd.

It means that the place at Twickenham will be decided next weekend when Hampshire welcome Warwickshire to Havant and Somerset travel to North Midlands, the latter knowing that they have to overturn the 20-point points difference to stand any chance of overhauling Wes Dugan’s men.

On a bright but blustery day beside the creek, it was the visitors who opened the scoring on six minutes when Clifton prop Alex Giltrow was the man to emerge with the ball as they drove over from close range – Kieron Hill adding the extras.

But there was an instant response as a swift passing move allowed centre Wayne Dugan to send the home crowd into raptures with a try on his home ground.

Hampshire were having the majority of the ball in the early stages but Somerset pulled off a brilliant move to go 95 metres to extend their lead.

From a scrum near their own line, some quick hands and quicker legs, especially from Oscar James, allowed Harry Butland (Clevedon) to cross.

Once again, Hampshire responded immediately with Havant’s Harry Carr scoring his first senior try and the home side took the lead for the first time when Matt Farnes (Portsmouth) sped through for try number three.

That advantage lasted all of ten minutes when Hampshire gifted it back with a simple interception try for Hill on 32 minutes.

A Pierre-Alex Clark penalty reduced the lead to a single point against the wind and Hampshire would have probably settled for that at the interval but a quickly taken penalty, a forte of the Somerset play masterminded by scrum-half Mitchell Spencer (Clifton) saw him grab a try right on half-time.

Hampshire, now with the trusty Gosport wind at their backs, came out with a sense of purpose and Clark’s penalty following a yellow card for Somerset’s Jake Childs was more than they deserved.

It was all Hampshire at this point – Clark was wide with a second penalty but, following a poor clearance from the visitors, Wayne Dugan sprinted in for his second of the afternoon to give them a 30-26 lead.

However, midway through the half, Somerset started to take charge, especially up front with Hampshire being penalised all too regularly for offences, which allowed the West Countrymen an avenue back into the contest.

And they took it with some aplomb as Clifton’s Sam Harrison was on the end of another quickly taken penalty to retake the lead.

Clark’s excellently struck penalty levelled the scores with ten minutes to play but, with Hampshire’s scrum under intense pressure, Hill made no mistake when the penalty arrived within kicking range to give the lead back to the visitors.

Hampshire were reduced to 14 men for the last few minutes when prop Ryan Wilkie was sent to the sin-bin but Clark’s last ditch penalty as Hampshire tried to keep the ball in the backs ensured the game ended in a draw and both sides left knowing their fate is in their own hands.

It was a scrappy game, with far too many balls being fumbled but Hampshire know that a good win against Warwickshire, who played out an incredible 56-56 draw at home to North Midlands in the other group game, will see them return to Twickenham for a second successive year.

There will be plenty of nervous interest being paid to the other game at Dudley Kingswinford though.

TABLE                                          P         W        D         L          F          A         PD          Pts
1.      HAMPSHIRE                       2          1          1          0          98       49       49          8
2.      SOMERSET                        2          1          1          0          79       50       29          8
3.      WARWICKSHIRE               2          0          1          1          70       99       -29         3
4.      NORTH MIDLANDS           2          0          1          1          69       118     -49         3

HAMPSHIRE: Matt Farnes (Portsmouth), Alex Everett-Bolter (Bournemouth), Freddie Gleadowe (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport & Fareham), Harry Carr (Havant), Pierre-Alex Clark (Tottonians), Wes Dugan (Gosport & Fareham – capt); Daniel Sargent (Worthing Raiders), Joe Milton (Trojans), Ryan Wilkie (Portsmouth), Rob Rees (Winchester), Richard Janes (Havant), Joe Rees (Bournemouth), Liam Perkins (Worthing Raiders), Gavin Hart (Havant).  Replacements: Alex Hibdige (Andover), James Wise (University of Leicester), James Monck (Andover), Elliott Worrall (Portsmouth), Charlie Stonehill (University of Cardiff), Harry Dolbear (Tottonians), Ben Brierley (Havant).

SOMERSET: Harry Butland (Clevedon), James McKay (Weston-super-Mare), Sam Harrison (Clifton), Kirk Middlemiss (Weston-super-Mare), Oscar James (Hornets), Kieron Hill (Clevedon), Mitchell Spencer (Clifton); Charlie Bullimore (Clifton), Dave Wheeler (Clifton), Alex Giltrow (Clifton), Ed Hack (Dings Crusaders), Jake Holcombe (Dings Crusaders), Brett Harvey (Taunton – capt), Tom Crossman (Weston-super-Mare), Jake Childs (Barnstaple).  Replacements: Liam Appleton (Cleve), Callum Lynch (Loughborough University), Chris Jones (North Petherton), Connor Phillips (Weston-super-Mare), Hugh Morgan (Weston-super-Mare), Rob Dempsey (Hornets), Hayden Tuittet (Weston-super-Mare).

Referee: Gareth Holsgrove (RFU)

Hants 2



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