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Bill Beaumont County Championship Rugby - Division 2 Pool 2 match report
by Richard V Isaacs


Hampshire produced the almost perfect team display to score their highest ever Championship points tally in crushing Somerset 66-5 at Taunton to move within one game of a third successive trip to Twickenham.


A hat-trick from Worthing Raiders flanker Kemp Price led the way to the nine-try win to set up a winner-takes-all clash with Warwickshire next weekend to qualify for the final.


The dye was cast as early as the second minute when scrum-half Wesley Dugan (Gosport and Fareham) was on the end of a great move to dive in at the corner.


The visitors were already showing their dominance, despite being forced into making six changes to the starting XV from last week's win over North Midlands.


Price went over for this first of the afternoon before Somerset's Weston-super-Mare centre Marcus Nel collected a loose ball and sprinted to the corner for the hosts sole score.


From that point on, it was predominantly one-way traffic with Joel Knight going over and converting his own score before the bonus point was sealed after just 32 minutes when Jacob Knight finished off a great team move.


The elder Knight slotted a simple penalty before Leicester Lions winger James Wise, one of many former Hampshire Under 20s in the squad, crowned a superb first half display for the visitors with their sixth try of the match to go into the break 41-5 ahead.


A second Joel Knight penalty early in the second half set the tone again before Havant winger Scott Morris marked his debut, beating off the Somerset defenders to grab a deserved try.


Replacement fly-half Lewis Dennett, who came on for the injured Wayne Dugan midway through the first half and was inspirational in his clinical ball distribution and deft touches, slotted a penalty to bring up the second successive County Championship half-century.


The excellent Price completed his hat-trick under the posts while Joel Knight finished the match the same way the first half did with a score which showed Hampshire's total quality of the performance.


Head coach Ian Chandler was a proud man at the final whistle.  "If you had said we would come down to Somerset and score 66 points, I wouldn't have believed it," he said.


"But it was almost the perfect team display from start to finish and we have given ourselves a good platform ahead of next week's crucial clash with Warwickshire.


"What was especially pleasing for us was the fact that we have 7 or 8 former Under 20s players in our squad, which shows the effort being put in to create Club Hampshire through all the age teams and progressing into the senior XV, and one of those scoring a brilliant hat-trick."


Chandler admitted that the coaches have some tough selections to make ahead of the crunch game at Rugby Lions with players returning to the squad.  "We have some difficult meetings ahead," he felt.


"These lads have played superbly today but we know that the Warwickshire game will be tough and will field the best team available."


HAMPSHIRE TEAM: Wayne Dugan (Gosport and Fareham), Scott Morris (Havant), Richard Buck (Tottonians), Joel Knight (Havant), James Wise (Leicester Lions), Jacob Knight (Sutton and Epsom), Wesley Dugan (Gosport and Fareham); Armandus Morgan, Jerome Trail (both Havant), Luca Firetto (Bournemouth), Mitch Goldring, Richard Janes (both Havant), Joe Rees (capt - Bournemouth), Kemp Price (Worthing Raiders), Joe Davis (Havant).  Replacements: George Primett (Henley Hawks), Sean Shepherd (Gosport and Fareham), Josh Gilmartin (Old Elthamians), Ali Ramus (Tottonians), Charlie Stonehill (University of Cardiff), Harry Dolbear (Tottonians), Lewis Dennett (Ebbw Vale).



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