Havant can’t make pressure pay as Dover grab the points
With ten changes from the squad that beat Basingstoke Havant’s Youngsters pushed Dover all the way.
League rugby is a marathon rather than a sprint and it is the depth of the squad that usually decides the positions at the end of the season.
Havant were forced to make a number of changes from the squad that won so convincingly against Basingstoke last time out. In all there were 10 changes and a number of players made league debuts having impressed for the Dolphins in their Merit table campaign. The positives that the Hooks Lane side will take from this defeat will be that they are building a large squad of players that is capable of playing league rugby at this level.
George Sutton made his debut on the wing and was a handful for his opposite number all afternoon. Zak Saliba gained plaudits from all including his opposite number as he made his debut at loosehead giving his much bigger opponent a torrid time for 50 minutes.
There were good performances across the side but in the end Havant were punished for a lack of precision in the first quarter of the game where they enjoyed significant pressure and territory. The visitors were camped on their opponents line for long periods and looked likely to score on a number of occasions. But it was too often the last pass or possession turned over at a key moment that let Dover off the hook.
The referee was struggling to keep up with the pace of the game and consequently the players on both sides were getting frustrated with his decision making. When a Dover player was sent to the sin bin for a kick to the head Havant pressed their advantage and managed to score through a well worked back row move that put Grant Morris into space wide on the left.
Half-time Dover 0 Havant 5
Dover clearly know their pitch very well and used the incline very effectively pinning Havant back in their own half. With the slope in their favour the home side piled into Havant with renewed vigour and having driven hard up the middle of the pitch they threw the ball wide for a fine converted score by their right wing Harry Sayers.
This pattern remained for the rest of the game with Havant struggling to clear their lines and being guilty of trying to play far too much rugby deep in their own half.
Dover picked up a penalty to extend the score and Havant’s frustration grew with the referee. On two occasions when Havant seemed to have broken away the official pulled them back to award a penalty when they had not had a chance to exploit the advantage he was playing.
The Havant skipper, Joel Knight was sent to the sin bin for chatting back to the referee and as the last minutes of the game were played out in the failing light Dover grabbed a late penalty to deny Havant even a losing bonus point which on balance they probably deserved.
Dover is not an easy place to come to and the home side are always a tough nut to crack and so they proved today. They played excellent percentage rugby in the second half and kept the visitors pinned in their own half.
Although disappointed with the result the Havant Coach, Will Knight felt there positives to take out of the game,
“Credit to Dover they stopped us playing in the second half and used the slope perhaps a bit better than we did. But I was delighted with the way the lads that came in performed. These guys have been playing very well in the Dolphins and have shown today that they can make the step up.”
“All season we have talked about building strength in depth and today we saw that in action. I am not sure how many team in our league could have made as many changes as we had to today and still be that competitive – it augers well for the future.”