Havant banish the blues
Havant start 2019 with a magnificent bonus point win over table topper Brighton
The visitors made the best possible start and registered their first score within the first minute. As they moved the ball across the line Havant's defence go over excited and as a player jumped out of the line Blues winger Maxx Morris stepped inside him and sprinted away to provide the scoring pass to flanker Will Hoare.
Havant hit back almost immediately with a beautiful try built from good forward play and continuity and finished with a piece of individual brilliance by full back Ben Chambers. As the ball was flicked out to Chambers he chipped over the Blues defence and sprinted between two defenders to regather the ball and score under the posts. Chambers converted to put Havant in the lead.
The Blues scored next with a try from flanker Judd Newell, the flanker driving over from the base of a ruck after a good break by Jesse Beacham. the conversion was added by fly-half Kieron Martin.
The home side's pack will claim a hand in the second Havant score - the pack shoved Brighton's much bigger pack off their own scrum ball and Joe Davis broke from the base. Skipper Jake Hewett and Fly-half Wayne John combined for winger James Wise to power over.
With only 2 minutes to play in the half Brighton elected to kick a penalty to take a slender lead into the half-time team talk.
Half-time: Havant 12 Brighton 15
The second half had barely got going when Richie Janes sustained a nasty broken nose as he was tackled. Will Owen coming on to replace him and a shift of roles in the pack needed.
Havant kicked to the corner and from the lineout forced a penalty for a collapsed maul. The referee wasn't able to identify who was guilty and Havant went to the corner again. Another lineout drive, another collapse by the Blues and this time the culprit was identified and their replacement lock was sent to the bin.
Havant this time elected the scrum and put the power on - as the Blues scrum fractured Richard James, the referee, decided that a try would have been scored but for the illegal involvement of the Blues back row and ran under the posts to award a penalty try.
Brighton showed why they are top of the table with their next score that showed great control and continuity. The Blues, playing simple one out rugby, kept coming around the corner and eventually after multiple phases Havant just ran out of defenders and the gap opened for full-back Sean O'Hagan to dive over and Brighton to take a 1 point lead.
Havant regained the lead when Wayne Dugan powered over. The centre was brought down by the Blues but the tackler failed to complete the tackle and as he was not held Dugan jumped up and sprinted to the corner to score. The Blues Captain pleaded with the referee but the try stood and Ben Chambers stepped up to slot over the conversion from just inside the touchline.
This game was never going to be straightforward and as befits a team chasing promotion The Blues came back again good approach play and a penalty kick to the corner set up a lineout opportunity. Hooker Harry Coates got his hands on the ball at the back of the drive and was not letting go as the Havant defence fell away he piled over. The touchline conversion was good and Brighton were 1 point in front with about 10 minutes to play.
Lee Mellor who had been a handful all afternoon forced a penalty from the Brighton 9. The 9 pulled the ball outside the ruck and took an age to set his kick and Mellor decided the ball was out and smashed the scrum half. As the 9 stood complaining he managed to turn a scrum into a penalty by whining at the referee.
Brighton did manage to break out again briefly but a knock on gave Havant scrum possession on their own 22. Havant sent Ben Brierley crashing through the midfield and he was felled by no arms tackle from Brighton's blindside Will Hoare. When play broke down up field Mr James pulled play back and awarded a penalty and a yellow card to Hoare.
Havant kept the Blues penned into the corner but couldn't get across the line and it looked as if Brighton had done enough to hang on when Havant knocked on to give them possession. With the referee clearly telling the players there was a minute to play the Blues fullback oddly elected to kick to touch - giving Havant one more go.
Havant threw a clever ball to Joe Davis at the front and kept the phases going as they hammered the Brighton line. Within 5m and a Brighton player who was lying on the floor ripped the ball off the Havant player giving away a needless penalty.
In what was the last play of the game Ben Chambers stepped up to take the all or nothing kick. 16 metres in and on the 22 with the crowd pin drop silent Chambers calmly slotted the ball straight through the uprights to spark a huge celebration on the pitch and in the Mick Chalk stand.
In one of the best occasions seen at Hooks Lane for a couple of seasons Havant had edged the tightest of games against a good Brighton side. The abject performance from earlier in the season was a distant memory as the players left the field to rapturous applause.
Havant Head Coach Will Knight,
'What an exciting afternoon! The boys threw themselves into everything today and played some really good rugby. It was a really good game and it was clear from the first 10 minutes that it was going to be tight.'
'To think we lost 2 of our initially selected team on Friday and then this morning but the players that stepped up were outstanding. The work of the whole 18 was relentless and in the end it was our greater discipline that won the game for us.'
'Brighton are a good side and it may well be their year this year but we have always felt that we have a squad that is as good as anyone in the league. We had a pretty disasterous start but we stuck to our values, we try to be good losers and good winners and always respect the club's we visit. Even when are hurting we have rules as a squad about going and having a drink with the opposition, that's what makes rugby the game it is. I hope we never lose that.'
'I think you saw out there a squad that will fight for each other - It was great for the boys and the supporters who are always so loyal to the team.'
'We have picked up a few knocks today and it looks like Richie will be out for a while. Dartfordians next week is another club we owe a performance to - I can't wait!'