Magnificent Havant have too much for Medway
By Rugby Reporter
In a pulsating game Havant edged out their high flying Kent opponents, ending their chance of a play-off place.
For the final time this season Havant ran out at Hooks Lane to a huge welcome from the enormous crowd. The challengers in this game have been setting the pace for most of the season at the very top of the league but after a slip last week were desperate to win to have any chance of a play-off place.
Hooks Lane has proved a difficult hunting ground for all comers this season, as it is every year, the atmosphere in the ground is unlike any found elsewhere in the league and the supporters had arrived expectant of an end of season feats of rugby - they were not disappointed.
Havant have made a habit of giving teams a free shot in the opening moments of games and this week was no different. From the kick off the ball was allowed to bounce and Medway grabbed their chance. A series of rucks on the Havant line, a smart snipe from the base of the ruck and within the first minute the home side found themselves 7 points down.
The response was immediate and emphatic. James Wise claimed the restart and Havant drove hard into the Medway defensive line stretching it first wide and then punching with the forwards at the edge of a series of quick rucks. Jake Hewett spotted the chink in the Medway line and sprinted through before offloading to Jerome Trail who had too much power and pace and ran in under the posts for a try converted by Skipper Joel Knight.
It was the home side that scored next again through excellent approach work moving the ball from their own 22 up into the opposition 22. Jake Hewett then broke from the base of a ruck, dummied as if to pass inside and stopped the defence in their tracks before sprinting away to dot down under the posts. Knight again accurate with the boot.
Both sides tore into each other with some excellent play both with and without the ball and Havant had their chances to regain the lead. Jerome Trail had done all the hard work when he broke from his own 22 only to be penalised for an additional roll on the floor just shy of the try line.
But it was the promotion chasers from Kent that grabbed the next score. The men from Kent squeezed in with try by their winger wide on the left. The referee, called for a video replay, then realising that their wasn't one consulted with his touch judge. Consultation complete and the try was awarded. An excellent touchline conversion tied up the scores.
Half-time: Havant 14 Medway 14
The home side came out of the blocks faster in the second half. Immediately stretching the Medway defence as they moved the ball right. A change of direction and a powerful surge by Trail set up a quick ruck that was moved left by the backs. Knight recieved the ball stepped inside his defender and then offloaded from the tackle to Wayne Dugan who picked a lovely line to crash over. This time Knight hit the post with the conversion.
Medway fighting with all they had to keep their promotion dreams alive were not going away. From a lineout on the 22 their scrum-half ran through 2 Havant tackles to score a lovely individual try and the conversion gave the visitors the lead for the first time since minute 3.
Havant's next score came from a little bit of individual magic from skipper and man of the match, Joel Knight. The forwards set up excellent ball in the 22 through a fine drive by Mike Brook and when the ball was moved across the line Knight stepped first inside and then outside the defenders leaving Medway tacklers clutching at thin air. Knight converted his own try and Havant were back in the lead.
Havant emptied their bench to introduce new legs. Havant kept pressing and looked as if they had scored again. A magnificent break by Harrison Young offloaded to James Wise saw the winger sprint under the posts. The touch judge followed him but the referee pulled play back for a forward pass. The Havant crowd were not convinced. (Note: The video evidence suggest that the Havant crowd got that one right!)
As both defences smashed into each other Joel Knight saw an opportunity to extend the score. Dropping back behind the ruck and smashing over a drop goal from the 10 m line. Havant now had a 8 point lead with only 10 minutes to play.
Medway came at Havant with a desperation to not miss their chance should other games go their way. The Havant defence was tested but held firm.
Life didn't get any easier when Richie Janes was yellow carded for a high tackle. Now attacking against 14 Medway sensed their chance and upped their intensity only to be matched by the ferocity of the Blue and White wall. The job got even harder when Harrison Young was bizarrely yellow carded for what looked to all but the referee as a perfectly good tackle.
Medway pressed again and this time were rewarded with a penalty try. As two players hit a Medway attacker an infringement was adjudged to have occurred. The referee ran straight under the posts, the Havant coaching team standing 5m away scratched their heads and Medway were within 1 point.
Havant kicked out on the restart to give the visitors one more chance. But this time the home side grabbed back control of the ball and when awarded a penalty the skipper knocked the ball into the stand to confirm the bonus point win.
On a fabulous day in front of a huge crowd Havant demonstrated again that they have the team to challenge at the very top of this league. Medway proved what they have done all season which is to play a great style of tough, uncompromising rugby. For the fans it was a cracking game and a fantastic advert for the quality and intensity of London 1 rugby.
After the game the former players association awarded Jake Hewett their player of the season award to universal acclaim from the players and supporters alike.
Havant Head Coach Will Knight,
"Wow, what a game. I couldn't be prouder of the team than today. We asked them to put in a performance for themselves but also for Rob Davey and Dylan Raubenheimer. They certainly did that. Huge credit to Medway, they never stopped coming and will be hugely disappointed to just miss out at the end of the season. We have been there in the last few years so know how that feels."
"It has been a crazy season but to finish that way was testament to the hard work of all the players and the coaches that work with them."
"The crowd today were amazing, it is so good for the players to have this support - it makes the experience very special. As long as we keep putting in performances like that I think the crowds will grow and grow."
"We will have some time off now - some of the lads will be involved with the county but plans for preseason are already taking shape. We will come back fitter and stronger. I think 2019-20 will be an exciting season."