Petersfield Rugby Club’s first team fell to a 41-19 defeat at Gosport and Fareham in Hampshire 1 on Saturday.
Petersfield travelled to Gosport Park in eighth place in the 12-team league to meet a Gosport side comfortably holding fifth place.
The visitors, with a squad of players that included those returning from injury and unavailability had, on paper, one of their strongest squads of the second half of the season.
The hopes of the large travelling support were raised with just two minutes on the clock.
A Petersfield penalty kick failed to reach touch, where a surprised Gosport player fumbled the catch, regained control and passed inside through two players. Jim Tribe intercepted a long pass and galloped 50 metres, avoiding three tacklers to score under the posts for Archie Whitear to convert.
Within five minutes a Petersfield knock on set a Gosport five-metre scrum which was worked over the line with the ball at the feet of their number eight for a converted try.
Gosport scored again from a catch from a Field goalline drop out, and swiftly passed through two pairs of hands to their lighting right winger who stepped through two tackles to score an unconverted try in the corner. The hosts led 12-7.
With 15 minutes played Petersfield had a penalty 15 metres out from Gosport’s line.
This was quickly tapped and passed to the gathered forward pack, who mauled the ball over the line for the returning Nick Wilde to score and Archie Whitear to convert.
In a ruck inside their 22 Petersfield lost possession of the ball for Gosport to spot an overlap on their right and fire a long pass. This was telegraphed to Tribe, who latched on to the ball and sprinted 70 metres dancing round defenders and breaking tackles to score an unconverted try.
Gosport were awarded a penalty 30 metres out in front of the posts and kicked for three points to make it 19-15.
With less than ten minutes of the half to play a further successful attacking scrum had Gosport’s excellent centre slicing through Field’s defence to score a converted try. The score was 22-19 at half-time.
Petersfield’s pack of Jamie Hobbs, Sam Brown, Will Cross, Mark Butcher and Harley Orr, with returning members Nick Wilde, Jake Bosher and Tom Potter, had put in a big shift against a well-drilled and strong Gosport side.
In the second half Petersfield failed to trouble the scoreboard despite several promising attacks. Scum half Eddie Matthews and fly half Fin Sloan orchestrated the moves for Tribe and Joe Atkinson to punch holes in the defence, while the back line of Joe Potter, Leo Mehers and Whitear added extra pace and some lengthy runs.
However, Gosport’s defence of their try line did not buckle.
Petersfield substitutes Alex Evans, Jorge Villalon and Chad White all gave a good account of themselves, but Gosport added two tries – one of which was converted – in a highly- competitive half.
In the last moments of the match Gosport intercepted a Petersfield pass and galloped 50 metres to score under the posts for a converted try, adding a gloss to their scoreline.
Despite the defeat, the whole Petersfield squad and management were pleased with the teamwork and spirit on the park.
Petersfield drop to ninth place in the league by virtue of Alton securing a losing bonus point in their 27-26 home defeat against Andover. Four clubs now have 27 points in the Hampshire 1 table.
Petersfield have three games left to play, starting with a home game against third-placed Eastleigh on Saturday.
Field travel to second-placed Winchester on Saturday, March 4 before hosting fourth-placed Havant’s second team on Saturday, March 11. With players returning from injury, Petersfield hope to spring a surprise to finish the season.