Hooks Lane thriller as Wimbledon grab draw in last play.
by Will Knight
Havant took proved their league credentials again as they drew with table topping Wimbledon.
On a bright breezy afternoon Havant hosted high flying Wimbledon, with their star studded coaching team of Tim Payne and Nick Easter on the touchline. In round 7 of their league campaign and encouraged by their emphatic win last week at Hove the home side were in the mood to add to their points total regardless of the relative distance between the two team in the table.
From the start it was clear that Wimbledon were going to have a battle on their hands as the home side flew into tackles and showed an immediate superiority at the scrum.
After an early penalty miss it was Havant that opened the scoring with an exquisite try from fly-half Dave Sweeney. Powerful winger Ben Brierley fielded the ball in his own half and powered upfield finding Joel Knight in support, Knight carried the ball to within 5m of the try line and popped the ball to Sweeney who scored under the posts. Knight added the extras.
Wimbledon hit back when Havant fell off a few tackles and their rangy Lock Campbell Tate found space to power through for a score. Wimbledon added a penalty to take the lead before Havant had hooker Sam Cooksley sent to the sin bin.
Havant managed to keep Wimbledon out during the yellow card period an just before half time scored their second try. Having opted to kick to the corner it looked like the opportunity may have been squanderd as the initial lineout drive broke down, but the forwards recovered well and as the ball was sprayed wide Knight carried hard into the Wimbledon defence and found fellow centre Grant Morris on his shoulder for a well taken score.
HT Havant 14 Wimbledon 10
The second period started as the first had finished. Within 2 minutes Havant had crossed the line again. Replacement full back Pat Gains punched a hole in the Wimbledon midfield and quick offloading found No.8 Loz Warren-West who stepped inside the cover and powered over under the posts. Knight hit the post with the conversion.
Skipper Knight then added a penalty before Wimbledon hit back with 2 scores of their own. The first scored wide on the right as the home side were outflanked by some good handling. The second came as a Havant defender flew out of the defensive line but missed his tackle allowing a free run in.
With Wimbledon now back in the lead it felt as if the Londoners were getting the upper hand but Havant came back hard and when lively scrum half Jake Reynolds took a quick tap it was moved across the line and found Knight in space for the centre to sprint through for a score under the posts, Knight converted his own score and the home side took the lead again.
In the dying minutes Wimbledon threw the everything at Havant and in the last play of the game as Havant were defending on their own try line they attempted to clear a kick from a ruck ball and the Wimbledon flyhalf charged the ball down as it spilled the bounce took it away from the Havant cover for a heartbreaking score. Wimbledon were not able to convert and the game finished a draw.
A thriller for the crowd the game, the game had all the elements that you would wish to see but again Havant were left feeling that this was a game they should have won.
What is clear is that this squad can mix it with the very best in the league and are starting to gel together and play some oustanding rugby. Skipper Knight was disappointed but recognises the progress the squad has made, “That was a really tough game against one of the best teams in the league. It shows our potential and again there were some stand out performances.
“The pack detroyed their scrum and man of the match Mike Brook who moved across to open-side today was absolutely everywhere, but we have to be disappointed because we had the game in the bag. Rugby is an 80 minute game and they kept going for all 80 – fair play to them.”
“Next week against Twickenham we need to reproduce the performance but make sure we get the win.”