Counties Two Hampshire rugby: New Milton loss to US Portsmouth tees up table-topping clash
Counties Two Hampshire
US Portsmouth RFC 40
New Milton RFC 14
NEW Milton suffered a miserable day at the office in losing to a dominant US Portsmouth, their second defeat since the restart.
Table-toppers New Milton had won 10 of their previous 11 games, but back-to-back losses have now opened the door to second-placed Bognor, who they play on Saturday.
Hosts US Portsmouth, playing on an Astroturf pitch, played impressive rugby and never let Milton get going, outscoring the visitors by six tries to two.
The hosts found the opening try early after making decent territory and earning a five-metre line-out. Milton won the ball and cleared, but full-back Callum Cells caught the ball on the halfway line before charging back, eluding any tackle attempts to score a converted try.
New Milton tried to get their running game going, but USP's fierce and secure tackling prevented any progress, while the wet ball, which affected handling, did not help.
Successive penalty awards allowed New Milton to get near the USP 22-metre line, but they could not create any pressure, with the host forwards well in control of the scrums and line-outs.
USP widened the scores soon after, turning over a New Milton scrum before running and passing the ball along the blind side to touch down in the corner.
Milton won a line-out straight from the kick-off in the closing moments of the half and came close to the try-line, but the hosts smartly drove them into touch.
The match restarted with New Milton trailing 12-0, but it was USP who attacked, scoring a converted try from the middle of the pitch before another soon followed after a powerful scrum.
Milton finally gave their fans something to cheer when a decent line-out preceded Dalton Thomas breaking through to touch down, with Connor Hammerstone knocking the conversion through the posts.
However, any hopes of a comeback were dashed when the hosts scored two more converted tries.
As the match clock ticked over to 80 minutes, a successful scrum on the USP five-metre line allowed Jude Payne to burst through two tackles before passing to Tom Gould, who went over. Adam Lavis stepped up and kicked the extras with the final kick of the match.
Chris Conacher was New Milton's player of the match.
New Milton: J. Blair, S. Bew, T. Gould, G. Short, J. Corbett, J. Lines, D. Mallard, J. Payne, A. Lavis, C. Brown, C. Conacher, L. Waugh, C. Jewiss, J. Eldridge, A. Everett-Jackson, D. Smith, C. Hammerstone, D. Thomas.