The Mariners are still the Hampshire Vets Champions and have brought home the club’s first silverware of the season having retained the John Sneezum Cup at a wet and windy Rugby Camp on Saturday.
We travelled the short distance to our old rivals Portsmouth expecting to be confronted from the first whistle and we weren’t disappointed. With both sides fielding strong teams and Pompey having some ex Havant stars Pearce, Garrett and Gronow in their ranks the match promised to be an epic.
The game remained scoreless for the first 25 minutes until after some driving forward play Jewitt was released down the left flank and with great pace and strength slid in at the corner….game on! Pompey came back strongly and clawed back an easy penalty converted by their points machine ‘Nobby’ Styles. A forward pass saved the Mariners from conceding a certain try and after further indiscretion we turned round 6-5 down.
With the wind on our backs the Mariners began to dominate field position however having taken the lead with a well worked Rob Davey try wide on the right we began a 10 minute period of indiscipline that saw us concede 3 further penalties to the reliable Styles. Such is the character and spirit within the Mariners we responded with control and power and following some intelligent play from Rob Andrew the ball was recycled for Steve Boydell to go over to the left of the posts. With no successful conversions the scores were locked at 15-15 and both sides spent the final minutes looking for a chink in the other’s armour. The Mariners conceded yet another kickable penalty however the metronomic Styles pushed the ball wide and extra time loomed.
Havant turned round into the gale and the stalemate continued for the first 10 minute period of extra time. The second period saw Havant supported by the wind and with levels of energy and commitment belying an average age of 44 we pushed deep into the Pompey half. With only five minutes left Davey Jones found a yard of space and chipped over a drop goal and the Mariners were on their way. An attacking five metre scrum with 2 minutes to go and there was only ever going to be one outcome; a deserved try for the tireless and effervescent Santy meant an 8 point lead that proved to be the final nail.
Havant had once again come up that hill!
As ever Portsmouth were genial hosts and generous in defeat and we entertained each other late into the night. The Cup went missing for few hours and was found later, not under a hedge by a mongrel but on the top shelf of The Phoenix Public House, close to Pompey’s ground and run by a certain Mr J Garrett.
In the words of John Santy, we are indeed privileged to be playing at our age and to enjoy the camaraderie not only of our friends and team mates but also of our rivals. If any of our younger players read this I can tell you that the excitement of a Cup final and winning with Havant does not diminish. Whatever you do and wherever you are, if you are a team player Rugby should remain the true ‘constant’ in your life. You are a long time retired.