Havant edge thriller to retain Hampshire Cup
Havant edged out Winchester 37-36 to prove the Hampshire Cup is alive and kicking.
The county competition was abandoned last season because it could not be fitted into a packed league schedule.
However, this year’s finalists provided compelling evidence the cup still has an important place in the rugby calendar with a thrilling clash.
In a ding-dong affair, Havant trailed 28-5 towards the end of the first half before launching a terrific second-half fightback.
It looked done and dusted when the holders established a 37-31 lead with five minutes remaining.
However, the London two south west hosts refused to throw in the towel and brought the scores back to within a point courtesy of a last-minute try.
The conversion would have won the game but Havant breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was missed.
Forwards coach Dylan Raubenheimer admitted he feared the worst and had his fingers crossed at the death.
‘Their kicker had been accurate all match, so I was mightily relieved when his final kick didn’t get close,’ he said.
‘The game was a terrific advert, though, and clubs still relish the challenge of cup rugby.
‘Winchester took the game to us from the start. It was a really competitive affair.
‘Their game plan put us on the back foot and we were a bit slow on the take-up.
‘Our opponents were throwing everything at it and they were much the better team at the start.
‘At that point we were struggling to get into the game.’
Winchester’s whirlwind start rocked Havant back on their heels.
The home side scored two tries and two penalties in the first 12 minutes.
Havant hit back with a try from a driving line-out but the joy was short-lived as they soon conceded another penalty and converted try. The crucial score for Havant arrived on the stroke of half-time, though, as hooker Charlie Wright went in at the corner.
‘Our try just before half-time gave us a lifeline and we felt the game was starting to swing our way a bit,’ added Raubenheimer.
‘It was definitely game on when we scored again just two minutes after the restart.
‘We started to find the right gear and that put us in the ascendancy.’
Playmaker Joel Knight went in for two tries and the London one south outfit also capitalised on two Winchester mistakes to add a couple more.
‘At the end we suffered from a little complacency to allow Winchester in for another try,’ said Raubenheimer.
The only sour note for Havant was a serious injury to Knight, who suffered a suspected broken foot.
If the injury rules the influential centre out of the final league game at Sidcup it will be a massive blow.
Havant need to win to be certain of clinching a play-off spot.