Match report by Stuart Montgomery

The sun was shining and the pitch side temperature was 32 degrees at 11:00 and probably went closer to 40 degrees by the time kick off approached. Havant only lost once at home last year and that was against the league champions (Wimbledon 11-16) conceding just 152 in 22 games, truly a fortress. TW had 5 changes, due to unavailabilities, from the previous week but still took a strong capable side who were up for the challenge.    

In the first ten minutes Havant showed their strength in a very organised line out and after a TW knock on and a pen the kicks to the corner resulted in a catch and drive try and another try after stretching the play across the pitch twice to go over in the corner, both conversions missed 10-0. Straight from the kick off the TW forwards disrupted the catch and attacked into the Havant 22, a fast recycle enabled George Montgomery to spot a half gap and he showed strength to take 2 defenders with him over the line – the try was duly converted and it was 10-7. The Havant restart was caught cleanly and fed to George who had spotted the Havant defence flying up and a nice chip over was gathered by Ben Whale who made 30 metres, the ball was fed to Ali Main who offloaded to Rory Goodger to score a try on his debut. The conversion was made to make the score 10-14 and there was little noise from a c200 crowd.

A sustained period of Havant pressure saw 4 Havant penalties (1 yellow card) and 2 were converted to make the score 16-14. The first scrum of the game was on 28 minutes and the ensuing breakdown in the Havant midfield was greeted with another Pen and a yellow card to Ben Whale. As was the usual, kicked to the corner, a great throw to the back of the lineout and taken over from 7 or 8 metres whilst having another penalty signalled – conversion taken and 23-14. The score was to remain 23-14 at HT with a penalty count of 10-2 against which was initiated by a very proficient line out.

Tunbridge Wells restarted the second half with John Petty on for Tom Waghorne and Toby Simpson for Ali Main. Havant started well and spent 10 minutes attacking the TW line but only forced a penalty for what was adjudged a deliberate knock on by George Montgomery on c45 minutes. The subsequent kick to the corner did not result in clean possession and TW box kicked to just short of half way where the ball was allowed to bounce and gather by Rory Goodger, 3 long passes to toby Simpson who showed a clean pair of heels from 60 metres to score out on the wide left hand side – Ben Day duly kicked the points for 23-21 scoreline. Further TW substitution with Jay Smith off and Jason Lord on. It wasn’t long before another penalty saw Havant kick to 5 out, a clean lineout (to 2 jumper this time) and over for another forward try – 28-21 con missed.

With another 6 penalties to Havant (2 goals kicked) and 2 to TW the scoreline progressed to 34-21 with 10 minutes left. TW finished strongly and scrummaged well throughout and did have a chance to get bonus points but a ball was knocked on with the line begging in the last couple of minutes.

The difference in the sides was very much down to the lineout supremacy and the subsequent consequences this enforced which in turn explained most of the adverse penalty count. Havant finished a clear second in this league last year and has given a good indication of the expected standard needed to compete at the top. Next week we entertain Horsham at St Marks.     

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