Havant keep hold of National status despite defeat

Dickie Dukes goes for the line
Dickie Dukes goes for the line
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Tom Whitehouse. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-81)

Pearce fires warning to triumphant Portsmouth

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Havant maintained their National League status despite being edged-out 48-43 in an excellent end-of-season contest at Bishop’s Stortford.

A 41-5 defeat for Basingstoke at Ampthill means the Hooks Lane side cannot be overhauled with just one league game remaining.

‘It has been a long, hard road but, ultimately, we have got ourselves over the line,’ said Havant director of rugby Adam King.

‘We would have liked to have achieved it by winning but it was academic in the end.

‘It was a crazy game which left both sets of coaches scratching their heads, but I am sure it must have been entertaining for the neutrals.

‘Ninety-one points on a sun-baked afternoon must have been good value.’

The visitors made a shocking start, conceding three tries in the opening 13 minutes.

Within the space of four minutes, however, Havant hit back to level the scores at 19-19 with a brace of tries from Joel Knight and another by Jarryd Robinson – two of which were converted by James McSeveny.

Dickie Dukes intercepted on the halfway line and ran 40 metres to play in Knight, and almost immediately the visitors recycled quick ball for Knight to go over again.

Winger Robinson then pulled off another interception and was able to stroll under the posts.

Remarkably, just before half-time, the visitors struck again to go ahead, with winger Duke cutting in to take a scoring pass from Gavin Hart.

McSeveny added the extra two points.

‘For the first 20 minutes we looked like a side who weren’t intent on staying up,’ said King.

‘Then, once again, an interception changed the whole complexion of the game.

‘Even though we led at the break I still didn’t feel confident and, to be fair, Bishop’s Stortford came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half.’

Stortford grabbed two converted tries but Havant roused themselves again to drive Grant Morris over for another converted try to level things up at 33-33.

The home side then took charge to stretch away into a 48-33 lead before a late burst from Havant saw McSeveny dummy over for a try and add a late penalty.

‘The challenge for the club now is to find a way to strengthen the squad for next season,’ said King.

‘This year has shown that a bigger squad is needed. We can now go to Civil Service for our final game with the shackles off.’