Wimbledon too strong for reshuffled Havant
Havant travelled to the top of the table side Wimbledon having made 10 changes to the team that played in the game v Hove the previous week.
In the pack there were first league starts for Christian Roberts and Tom Sutton. Havant were also forced to ask veteran Jason Baldock to fill the bench front row spot after Armundas Morgan was forced to withdraw late on Friday.
The home side looked every bit the promotion favourites and played with a speed and intensity that had Havant on the back foot from the off.
Wimbledon play a simple brand of rugby but do so very effectively – they keep the pace of the game high and showed real efficiency at the breakdown. Havant struggled to cope with the pace and the Wimbledon scrum-half was able to run the show behind a dominant pack.
The home side’s first score came from a driven line-out a weapon that they used effectively throughout the game and their excellent kicker added the conversion.
For their second score it was the home side’s scrum half that opened up the defence and found his flanker in support.
Havant were lacking organisation around the fringes, as a result of so many new combinations, and this was exploited by the Wimbledon 9 off the back of a driven line-out as he spotted the gap and sniped well to pick up a score.
Havant’s task was then made even harder when Jack Ward-golden was sent to the bin. The prop had legitimately tackled a player at the back of a maul as he had detached from the drive but the referee decided he had done so illegal and brandished his card. From the ensuing scrums Wimbledon were spun around twice and although they were making no forward momentum the referee rather bizarrely decided to award a penalty try.
Wimbledon completed and excellent first half for them (on 52 minutes) with a quickly taken tapped penalty leading to their 5th try.
Half-time Wimbledon 33 Havant 0
Havant came out for the second period looking like a different team there was a greater purpose to their play and they were moving the ball with much greater fluency. The game as a contest was much more even and entertaining for the large traveling Havant support.
While they failed to get any score on the board there was much in the second half performance that will have pleased the Havant coaching team and some good individual performances.
The line-out continued to function well and Havant were finding some space out wide. Jay Wilkes made some great covering tackles.
Wimbledon notched another couple of scores and were very deserved winners. They look the team most likely to get promoted and played that way today. They also lost a playet to a red card for verbally abusing the referee.
In the Havant camp it was always going to be a big ask to go to the league leaders having to change the starting line-up so much but those players that came in did themselves proud and played with a great deal of fire and intensity. In the end it was more about a lack familiarity, organisation and cohesiveness that was evident – particular in the defensive systems.
Havant’s head coach, Will Knight, was keen to emphasize the positives rather than dwell on the score.
“Wimbledon were a good side and played with tempo and organisation. They were good value for their win and I can see them doing well if they get promoted this year.”
“We knew that it was going to be hard – especially with so many changes in the side but the lads that came in did very well and I was very proud of them they showed that they are all comfortable at this level. What let us down was a little bit of organisation which a good side exploited.”
“We now have a week off which is timely – as it will give players some time to recover and we hope to be picking from a full squad for the trip to Twickenham on the 21st.”