ImageA hesitant Havant managed to overcome a spirited Basingstoke side, and retain the Cup, by scoring three tries in the last 15 minutes, writes Roger Boydell, the Press Officer of Havant RFC There were forced changes from the team that started at Rosslyn Park the previous Saturday. Both wings were out injured (Max Troquereau having broken his arm in two places in the first five minutes of last week's match and Cam Avery pulling a hamstring at training on Thursday night), and lock Lee Appleby was unavailable.

Ali Ramus was back from his fish-hunting safari to return to the engine room, and Matt O'Shea and Keith Molyneux were played on the wings. Returning from lengthy injuries, Anton Petzer and Wes Robertson started on the bench.

It was bright, but pretty 'nippy' with a strong wind blowing up the slope. The pitch was 'firm'.

Playing down the slope, Hav were first 'out of the blocks', and within 8 minutes were 12-0 up, thanks to a touch down by Ali Ramus from a line-out catch and drive, and an individual effort from Matt O'Shea who caught a speculative kick ahead on half way and ran down the wing and round under the posts for Owen Cobbe to add the extras. However this wasn't to be as easy as last year. Far from it: the young Basingstoke side came back quickly, and found Hav's tackling 'wanting' as they ran up the field and over on the left to make it 12-5 a couple of minutes later. Although Hav had territorial advantage for a the next twenty minutes or so, and went close with further 'catch and drives', they were only able to add a further 3 points when Cobbe put over a penalty from in front of the posts to make it 15-5.

Just after the half hour, the lively 'Stoke backs again found holes in the Hav mid field, and a move started by their right wing from half way was finished off by the full-back breaking through on the left and round under the posts for a try that was easily converted to make it 15-12. At this point Hav, despite playing down the slope, were being pegged back in their own 22, and the home team were able to capitalise from their pressure by charging down an attempted clearance from Pucs and being first to drop on the ball over the line. No conversion left it at 15-17 at half time. No more than 'Stoke deserved.

From the restart, Hav were quickly up the field and, winning a penalty just outside the 22, in front of the posts, went ahead again to 18-17 when Cobbe made the kick. But the tenacious 'Stoke came back strongly and, having a good backs move stopped just short of the line, they won a penalty, kicked for the line-out, caught and drove and forced their way over. A good conversion made 18-24 with 50 minutes gone.

Stung into action, with the prospect of an unexpected defeat starting to loom, Hav gradually got their act together, but it took a further 10 minutes before they were able to close the gap, to 21-24, thanks to a further Cobbe penalty. They then had a ten minute spell of the sort of dominance that the sizeable crowd of Hav faithful had hoped for. During this period they moved the score to 35-24, from two excellent tries. The first started from a move well within the Hav half started by Anton Petzer (replacing Steve Stapleton) and with good support play from Matt Morgan in particular, the ball was given to Matt O'Shea on the left just inside the 'stoke half. O'Shea outpaced the initial defence and then, approaching the 22, jinked neatly round the approaching 'last man', and ran in under the posts. Cobbe converted. The second was from another good passing interchange, this time up the right, that was finished off by Anton Petzer in the corner. Cobbe kicked an excellent conversion.

It looked 'all over bar the shouting', but 'Stoke had other ideas. With the clock showing 40 minutes, but with considerable injury time to play, 'Stoke made it 35-31. Having taken their foot of the pedal, Hav were careless when clearing from defence, and 'Stoke took advantage through some slick interpassing, that finished with them under the posts, enabling an easy conversion. It could still have gone either way! However Hav had the final say after absorbing some frenetic 'Stoke pressure, they worked their way back up field, and forcing the home defence into handling errors in their 22, they kicked ahead a lose ball and George Pettingell (on for Graham Butterworth) chased and pounced for his first try for the 1st XV. This was the last action of the match leaving Hav ahead 40-31.

Full credit to Basingstoke for making this a much closer and entertaining contest than last year's. Hav didn't show the same control and urgency as they had the previous week at Rosslyn Park, and were shown up on several occasions by a side that showed a great deal of spirit and tenacity. Still, we have won 'back to back' Hampshire Cup Finals for the first time since 1989, and shown that, at least for the time being, the 'ascendancy' is still in the south of the county!


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