Rugby clubs playing catch-up

Waterlogged pitches are still the main threat to the rugby programme in Hampshire this weekend as clubs throughout the league structure try to play catch-up.

Tomorrow was earmarked as a rest day to take in the Six Nations or play the odd cup game, but several sides are trying to take the opportunity of staging matches postponed through of weeks of torrential rain.

Tottonians’ London 2 South-West clash with Effingham & Leatherhead looks as if it could be saved by some friendly neighbours with both Millbrook and Southampton keen to make their facilities available.

Totts’ Water Lane field is still suffering the effects of weeks of constant rain and club officials have been searching for an alternative so that they are not forced, under RFU rules, to travel away to the Eagles, who shocked Gosport & Fareham on their ground a week ago.

And Totts are looking for revenge after losing out 27-13 in Surrey at the beginning of the season.

Coach Gavin Williams said: “Our away game versus Eagles was disappointing and we were outplayed.

“The players are very keen to show what they are capable of in front of a home crowd and to continue our winning run.

“With Gosport’s shock defeat last weekend to Eagles it shows that we must be on top form this Saturday but also that the league and final positions are far from decided. We are confident that we have the players and ability to win this weekend.”

Totts make two changes to an otherwise settled squad following one of their best performances of the season and victory at Old Reigatians seven days ago.

Centre Tom Barnes drops from the bench to a starting berth in the Second XV to give him valuable game time and Ieuan Williams moves to the bench to be replaced in the starting line-up at No.8 by Dan Stocks.

Williams added: “We are extremely fortunate that we have two outstanding players in this position and competition for places is driving performance across the team.”

Having moved into third place in London 3 South-West Eastleigh are keen to keep hold of their new status and take a strong squad to face old foes New Milton & District.

But the Bishopstoke Road side are not likely to change their policy of building for the future by rewarding players with a place in the first XV if they think it is deserved.

Eastleigh took a step up the league when they defeated Old Mid-Whitgiftian.

Looking at tomorrow’s clash against Milton captain Russell Smith said: “We have been playing New Milton for many years and know that, for some reason, they are much better at home than they are away.

“We are not taking anything for granted. We would love to get a bonus point win against them.

“It’s going to be interesting. We know they are physical but we have full availability in our pack and they are the ones who have been winning games for us.”

Ellingham & Ringwood’s home defeat at the hands Old Wellingtonians contributed to Eastleigh’s rise to third and the Es should have the chance to make amends tomorrow with a trip to bottom side Camberley.

Southampton have a game in hand on clubs around them at the foot of Snows Group Hampshire 1 and can take another giant step away from relegation with success at Bognor.

At the other end of the table Team Solent will want maximum points at Alton, weather permitting, to get their promotion bid back on track after losing out to US Portsmouth.

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