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Bill Beaumont County Championship Rugby - Division 2 Pool 2 match report

by Richard V Isaacs


Hampshire's dream of a third successive visit to Twickenham were ended in an enthralling encounter, going down 24-31 to Warwickshire at Rugby Lions on Saturday.


Despite having the better of the opening half hour, three tries for the home side in the space of 11 minutes, either side of the half-time interval, were to be Hampshire undoing.


It was certainly an end-to-end contest on a glorious day in the Midlands and the sizable crowd were royally entertained by the 44 players on show.


Playing the usual brand of attacking rugby, Hampshire were impressive on the attack but found the Warwickshire defence resolute in the early periods.


However, they were powerless to stop Jacob Knight (Sutton and Epsom) going over after an excellent steal from the Warwickshire lineout from Liam Perkins to break the deadlock after 12 minutes.


Warwickshire responded quickly and their England Counties winger James Neal (Coventry) was on the end of a swift move to level the scores.


The visitors took full advantage of the ten minute absence of influential fly-half Dan O'Brien to post a Joel Knight (Havant) penalty.


And when prop George Primett burrowed over from close range, again converted by the senior Knight, Hampshire were in control at 17-7 with nine minutes to play before the break.


With O'Brien back on the field, he was pulling the strings and a change in the Warwickshire game plan saw them pepper the Hampshire line at will.


First, hooker Dale Bowyer (Earlsdon) was on the end of a good move through the centre to score and an O'Brien penalty ensured the sides went into the interval on level terms.


Any half-time tactical team talk plan went out of the window in the first five minutes of the second half when the home side went over twice more.


Broadstreet duo James Moreton in the second row was the first to go over and then replacement Nyle Beckett found plenty of space out wide to give his side a buffer.


Whilst a draw would have been sufficient to see Hampshire through, it just wasn't to be, even though Perkins got a score back and cut the arrears to seven points with Joel Knight adding the extras.


Portsmouth's Curtis Barnes did go over under the posts with just five minutes remaining but the referee and his assistant ruled that the Warwickshire defender had been pulled off the tackle illegally in trying to stop the pacy winger.


Seven minutes of injury time allowed Hampshire a couple of opportunities to hit back but poor handling, which had haunted them throughout the game, was to be their undoing.


It was hugely disappointing for the Hampshire side who had scored 50 points twice in the competition but failed to show the skills that had served them so well in this game and the dream of a Twickenham three-peat crashed.


HAMPSHIRE: Grant Hancox (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport and Fareham), Jacob Knight (Sutton and Epsom), Joel Knight (Havant), Curtis Barnes (Portsmouth), Lewis Dennett (Ebbw Vale), Wesley Dugan (Gosport and Fareham); Armandus Morgan (Havant), Jerome Trail (Havant), Luca Firetto (Bournemouth), Harrison Young, Mitch Goldring (both Havant), Joe Rees (capt - Bournemouth), Joe Davis (Havant), Liam Perkins (Worthing Raiders). Replacements: Josh Gilmartin (Old Elthamians), Sean Shepherd (Gosport and Fareham), George Primett (Henley Hawks), Richard Janes (Havant), Ross Parkins (Chinnor & Army), Scott Morris (Havant), Jake Caddy (University of Portsmouth).

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