After a difficult 2022-23 season with Petersfield’s senior first team avoiding relegation in the last few weeks of their campaign, the summer of 2023 was one where rebuilding, recruiting and restructuring were the focus.

Head coach Vicky Alexander stepped aside to focus on development of female rugby at Petersfield and with the Rugby Football Union across the south of England, Jason Ford returned as mentor to the senior coaches and players and Liam Perkins and Matt McLean joined from National League Worthing as player-coaches. Forwards coach Andy Patience came out of retirement, Jamie Williams moved to team manager and Ray Walkden continued as second team coach and manager.

Regular training organised throughout the summer was attended by many of the previous season’s squad, and several players returned from a season with other clubs, sabbaticals or university. A few of the club’s talented colts moved up to be in contention for senior selection.

While these developments at senior level were taking place the junior section of minis and youth started the season with a bang when by mid-September the club had more than 450 playing members aged 17 or younger.

The senior men had just two matches before their league season, both of which were won.

The league campaign started with a 57-12 win against Portsmouth at Penns Place.

The season continued with ten more league matches – the first seven of which were all won.

The visit to Havant’s second team at Hooks Lane and their artificial grass pitch in mid-November resulted in a 27-27 draw, with Petersfield gaining a bonus point by scoring four tries.

With just three matches remaining before the league fixtures reversed Petersfield continued their victorious run with away bonus point wins against Trojans and Ellingham & Ringwood, while Bournemouth second team’s visit to Petersfield was called off with Petersfield being awarded five league points for a home walkover.

The last scheduled league match away at Alton became a friendly as Alton’s matches are not being included in the league table as they were unable to fulfil three away fixtures in the first half of the season. Petersfield sent a representative team to Anstey Park, where a competitive Alton made Petersfield work hard for their 59-12 win and Petersfield received five league points for an away walkover.

Of the 36 players selected for the first team, 11 have played in nine or more league matches.

George Davis and Matt McLean are the top try scorers with seven each, while 19 others have scored one or more tries. Fly half Nick Blumlein, with just three tries to his name, tops the points scored with 105 points as a result of kicking conversions and penalties successfully. He is followed by Davis, Will Mathews and McLean with 35 points each.

The second team in Hampshire League Five North are just one point behind first-placed Kingsclere. Petersfield, with a game in hand and already a superior match points difference, could top the table in January.

The veterans have played matches on Fridays under lights at home against Farnham and away against Guildford.

Petersfield’s first team begin the second half of their league campaign at home to Andover on Saturday, January 6.

Chris Todd