The Under 16s claimed a hard fought victory over Portsmouth in the Hampshire County Bowl Final winning 11-7.

This was always going to be a hard match. The Under 16s had learnt from a previous encounter that Portsmouth liked to keep the ball with their forwards and the conditions dictated that that's exactly the type of game it would be.

Right from the kick off the tone of the match was set. The first five minutes was dominated by the forwards as they went through the phases. Hard running was met with hard tackles, the slippery conditions producing handling errors. A Portsmouth lineout 5 metres out saw a beautifully taken ball brought down and a maul was formed. Gosport and Fareham threw bodies in but Portsmouth had the maul set perfectly and drove the ball over the line. The try was converted; 0-7 to the visitors.

Gosport & Fareham responded well, keeping the visitors pinned back in their 22, but an attempted grubber kick through the defence rebounded off a Portsmouth player and they launched a counter attack down the wing before being bundled into touch at the half way line.

The twelfth minute saw Gosport & Fareham put their first points on the board. A penalty in front of the posts. The captain called for the kicking tee and Benjamin Smith scored the penalty; 3-7. The points seemed to settle the side and boost their confidence.

The first half ended with no further score 3-7 to Portsmouth.

The second half started in much the same way as the first but with much more movement through the hands even though the conditions hadn't improved the boys were obviously much more confident.

Neither side were able to break through. The steadfast defence from both sides interspersed with turnovers in the slippery conditions.

A knock on by Portsmouth. The ball came out of the scrum to Ollie Walker who sprinted toward the line and was hit by wall of defenders. The boys piled in behind him, Ollie reached through with the ball and grounded it. The Portsmouth players piled in. Was it a try? The crowd waited with bated breath. No, the ball was judged to be short of the line.

Then came what seemed like a crazy decision. A penalty right in front of the posts and the captain opted to take the points rather than kick to touch. The decision obviously wasn't popular with some members of the team but Benjamin Smith lined up, stepped back and slotted the ball between the posts bringing the score to 6-7. Gosport & Fareham were one point behind with 10 minutes to play.

Relentless pressure from Gosport & Fareham forced Portsmouth back into the 22. With five minutes to play Portsmouth knocked on Gos were awarded a scrum.

The scrum had been working well, the boys more than holding their own against the much larger Portsmouth pack. Once again they held steady and hooked the ball back. The backs were spread out across the field, the Portsmouth players moved across to defend. Benjamin Smith, in a scrum half role, picked the ball from the base of the scrum and darted down the now open blind side scoring in the corner. The conversion was missed. The score was 11-7 with less than five minutes to go, could they hold on?

Portsmouth rallied and threw everything they had at the defence. It was a nail biting last few minutes. Gosport & Fareham won the ball back in a ruck on their line but the resulting clearance kick failed to find touch and the receiving player was tackled by an offside Gos player. The ball came all the way back. Only about a minute to go. Portsmouth brought the ball across the pitch, an excellent tackle and jackal from Joseph O'Mahony won the ball and Alex Burnett set the ruck. A Portsmouth hand came through, the whistle went for the infringement...and then for full time.

It was an excellent game of rugby, one which neither side deserved to lose.

After the match, when asked about his decision to go for the posts rather than kick to touch in the second half, Alex Burnett said "I had faith in the boys. We had 10 minutes to go, Portsmouth were going backward and our fitness seemed to be better but they had a really good mauling game so a good result from a line out was questionable.

"In such a close match I'd rather be one point behind with the team spurred on and attacking for 10 minutes than one point ahead but the incentive with the opposition forcing us to defend."

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