Havant RFC start new season as they ended the old one – winning games

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Havant RFC have started the new season as they ended the last one - winning games.

Head coach Will Knight oversaw a run of seven successive wins as his side finished the 2021/22 London & SE Premier campaign in fifth place.

And Havant followed up an opening-day victory at Banbury by beating Camberley 18-6 in front of a big crowd at Hooks Lane yesterday.

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That means they are just one of three clubs - out of 12 - still boasting a 100 per cent record after eight days of the new season.

Havant v Camberley. Picture: Barry ZeeHavant v Camberley. Picture: Barry Zee
Havant v Camberley. Picture: Barry Zee

It was a rare defeat for Camberley, who had romped to last season’s London 1 South title with 22 wins in 24 games. They had also lifted the curtain on 2022/23 with victory over Wimbledon the previous week.

But they were restricted to just two first-half penalties at Hooks Lane.

‘We were expecting a battle and it was certainly a physical exercise,’ Knight told The News. ‘I felt we were always on top, they didn’t really look like scoring, defensively we were excellent.’

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Rory Penfold touched down for Havant’s opening unconverted try before Camberley got on the scoresheet.

Harry Try grabbed the hosts’ second try, after a crossfield kick from Jacob Knight, with Camberley again responding with a penalty.

Jacob Knight’s first penalty gave Havant a 13-6 interval advantage, with the only score of the second half - a ‘war of attrition’ according to coach Knight - coming via a late Nathan Bellman try.

‘The guys have worked incredibly hard in pre-season, they really put it in. Our fitness levels have been better than the two teams we’ve played so far.

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‘Physically, we’ve shown some high intensity so far, that’s something the boys pride themselves on. It’s the foundation for the way we play.’

Following the RFU’s close season revamp of the leagues, Havant - who remain in the fifth tier - have been handed a fixture list containing some new names.

They will face the likes of Banbury, Bournemouth and Wootton Bassett for the first time in league fixtures.

Of their 13 rivals in last season’s London & SE Premier, only four remain - Maidenhead, Wimbledon, Brighton and Sutton & Epsom.

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Though there are four fewer league fixtures this season, Will Knight is happy with the changes. ‘It’s nice for the players, it’s like stepping into the unknown a bit,’ he said.

‘Some teams we’ve played for year in year out, and you go into those games with some preconceived ideas. It’s a good challenge.’

Given Havant claimed the highest 2021/22 finishing position of any club in their new division, Knight admits the squad should have ‘cautious optimism’ with regards to a promotion challenge.

‘We’re striving to go forward, to go up, that’s what we want to do,’ he stated. ‘We want to get to National 2 rugby.’

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This season’s squad is very similar to the one that ended 2021/22 on a seven-game winning run.

Back row Dylan Lawley, formerly of Llanelli Scarlets, and Royal Navy openside Mitch Spencer are new faces for this term, and both have made their league debuts.

A third seasonal debutant, prop Jake Waterman, came on as a second half replacement against Camberley.

Havant travel along the south coast next weekend to face a Brighton team who have lost their opening two league games.

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