Havant push leaders all the way.
by Will Knight
In a game of grit, determination and not a little controversy Havant came agonisingly close to a great win at top of the table Sidcup.
The pitch at Sidcup was in fantastic condition and provided a perfect surface for an open running game.
This season Sidcup have been sweeping all before them in the league and the Hooks lane outfit were clear that there needed to be a marked improvement on the first 3 games if they were going to compete with the Kent side.
That improvement was evident from the very start. Steve Cruddas was exerting huge pressure of the Sidcup 10 and this set the tone for the rest of the squad. Havant allowed the league leaders very little time on the ball and pushed and harried at every opportunity.
The first score went to Sidcup from a penalty conceded at the base of the scrum when Loz Warren-West was caught in possession. On a very warm afternoon Havant opted to use their interchanges to rotate the front row and Jez Smith came on to replace Jack Ward-Golden. Smith made an immediate impression with some powerful work in the loose.
Sidcup scored a try from a driven 5m lineout, Flanker Steve Evans breaking from the base and driving over from close range.
Havant immediate hit back driving hard into the opponents 22 and from their own driven lineout it was Jez Smith that came up with the ball for a well-deserved score which was converted by Joel Knight.
The second half started as the 1st had finished with Havant getting the better of many of the loose exchanges but contriving to give possession back to the home side. They also failed too often to protect their Jake Reynolds at 9 who did a valiant job of shipping ball under huge pressure from the Sidcup pack.
It looked as if the game was slipping away when Sidcup winger Dean Ashton score in the corner and the gap opened up to 13 points.
But there is a real grit and determination about this group and they responded by putting real pressure on Sidcup with forwards and backs combining. The Sidcup defence finally cracked when Jake Reynolds took a quick tap penalty under the home posts and the ball went wide for Ryan Ray to score in his first start on the right wing.
Havant now seemed to have real ascendancy in the pack and a series of 5m scrums caused the home side to concede three penalties. Eventually the referee lost patience and the Sidcup Loose head was sent to the bin. Then came a moment of controversy. With Havant putting Sidcup under massive pressure and looking likely to cause them more problems at the scrum Sidcup were unable to provide a front row replacement. The scrum had to go unopposed removing the significant advantage that Havant had in this area. From the resultant scrum Sidcup were able to turn ball over as their flankers were free to fly from the scrum.
Sidcup conceded another Yellow as their flanker was penalised for slowing the ball down metres from the try line after skipper Knight had run the ball back from the halfway line.
It was the Havant Skipper that scored the next try showing great footwork to step out of several tackles and stand the fullback up before scoring under the posts.
With just minutes to play the visitors did not have enough time to get back into the Sidcup 22 and frustratingly lost by a single point.
Havant will take many positives from this game and will see that they have taken a big step forward but it is another loss. They are now firmly at the bottom of the league and next week’s game against Charlton Park becomes increasingly important.
Skipper Joel Knightwas frustrated with the outcome if not the performance, “Yet again we show what we can do against the best sides in the league but we have to deliver the win. The fight back today was excellent and the intensity a step up from the last few weeks but we now have to close some games out.”
“The Forwards were fantastic today in the scrums but we have to ensure we provide clean ball at the breakdown. It was a very good defensive shift today but we need to make sure we exploit ball when we turn it over, too often we did the hard work only to cough the ball up to them again.”