Havant savour 'unbelievable occasion' despite Papa Johns Cup final defeat at Twickenham

Driffield go over for a try during their victory over HavantDriffield go over for a try during their victory over Havant
Driffield go over for a try during their victory over Havant
Will Knight reflected on an 'unbelievable occasion' despite Havant Rugby Club's Twickenham experience ending in defeat.

Hampshire's highest ranked club was beaten 34-17 by East Yorkshire outfit Driffield in the Papa Johns Men's Regional 1 Championship final at the home of English rugby on Sunday.

Head coach Knight said: 'It was an unbelievable occasion. For the players to be able to play at Twickenham in front of, I think someone said there was about 4,000 people there, and the noise and everything, it was just an amazing experience.

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'When the players walked through from the car park to the changing rooms it was unreal, there must've been 300 or 400 people there.

Driffield touch down for a try at TwickenhamDriffield touch down for a try at Twickenham
Driffield touch down for a try at Twickenham

'There were seven or eight coachloads from the club and people came from literally all over the country. Some had come up from Cornwall, some had flown down from Scotland.

'A gathering with the clan if you like. There were so many faces from Havant, past players and people that have been involved in the club.'

On the field, it wasn't Havant's day. They spent most of the first 20 minutes defending as a Driffield side which was very quick around the field and very physical came at them hard.

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Havant, who used the away team dressing room, fell behind to a penalty in the opening two minutes and a subsequent converted try following a driving maul left them 10-0 adrift after as many minutes.

Havant on the defensive during their defeat to DriffieldHavant on the defensive during their defeat to Driffield
Havant on the defensive during their defeat to Driffield

A Joel Knight penalty got Havant on the scoreboard, although Rory Penfold was then given 10 minutes in the sin bin and Knight was also yellow carded later in the half.

Havant's cause also wasn't helped by losing hooker Jerome Trail and pack leader Richie Janes to injury - the latter a dislocated finger - in the opening quarter of the contest.

Some strong defence kept Driffield out before Havant struck on the stroke of half time. Armandus Morgan touched down for a try and Joel Knight added the conversion to level the scores at 10-10.

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Driffield, though, restored their seven-point advantage with a converted try in the 48th minute. Havant then pushed hard and came agonisingly close to scoring again when the ball was held up over the line.

From the next play Driffield hacked the ball downfield, leading to a try which made it 24-10 instead of 17-17 which it might have been had Havant got the ball down and then converted.

With Havant chasing the game, they perhaps offered the opposition a bit more space than they might have done otherwise and Driffield scored another try out wide to put the outcome beyond doubt at 31-10.

A penalty stretched Driffield's lead by a further three points, although Havant at least had the final word when Tam Lindsay grabbed a consolation try which Knight converted.

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'It wasn't the result we wanted and Driffield were better than us on the day, but the boys certainly did themselves proud and the club very much did itself proud,' said Will Knight.

Havant's pain wasn't just confined to the result because they picked up five injuries in all, three of which are likely to require operations.

But they can reflect with great pride on their marvellous run in the competition, topping their initial four-team pool with three wins out of three before overcoming Driffield's league rivals Heath in a thrilling semi-final at Hooks Lane.

That came on top of a splendid league season as Havant finished runners-up in Regional 1 South Central, winning 18 of their 22 matches.

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Will Knight added: 'The cup was absolutely the icing on the cake at the end of the year. The decision to commit to the cup has been completely justified.

'We made memories for ourselves as a squad and also for the hundreds of fans and the hundreds of (Havant) minis and juniors (players) all loving the experience.

'We're not in a bad place and we know obviously that there's more to come if we can keep everybody fit and available. Who knows what we can do next year.'

Havant: Morgan, Trail, Lindsay, Janes, Brock, Shepherd, Dugan, Lawley, Holt, R. Knight, Carr, Jacob Knight, Joel Knight, Penfold, Smith. Replacements: Waterman, Leat, Vince, Bellman, Hewett, Lewis, Buckett.