Savour Hampshire Cup cheer – it may be last for some time

Bournemouth congratulate Havant on their victory. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
Bournemouth congratulate Havant on their victory. Picture: Duncan Shepherd
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Jeff Highcock has admitted the days of the county cup may be numbered.

The Hampshire Cup competitions chairman has recommended the knockout does not take place next season while its future is debated.

Havant claimed a 19th victory in the cup on Saturday, courtesy of a 25-0 win over newcomers Bournemouth at Hooks Lane.

‘The Hampshire Cup has ben a fantastic competition over the years,’ said Highcock.

‘Unfortunately, the current situation makes it difficult.

‘There is now a big gap between the top couple of teams – Havant and Tottonians – and the rest of the clubs in the county.

‘It was my decision to invite Bournemouth, who are affiliated to Hampshire, into this year’s competition.

‘But as it stands we only have Havant and Bournemouth entered for next season.

‘We would love to keep the competition going but we don’t have enough top teams.

‘Having teams pull out devalues the competition and fitting it in around league rugby is also difficult.’

In its heyday, the Hampshire Cup – previously known as the Dudley Kemp Shield – provided clubs with some of the biggest days in the season. There were some tremendous battles fought out between the likes of Havant, Basingstoke, Winchester, Portsmouth, Gosport & Fareham, United Services, Trojans, Alton and Eastleigh.

In the earlier rounds, junior clubs such as Fareham Heathens often enjoyed their chance to test themselves against senior opponents.

However, the gap in playing standards nowadays make those close-fought cup ties a thing of the past.

That competitiveness has now been transferred to the junior competitions, such as the Hampshire Bowl and Hampshire Vase.

Earlier this season, United Services hosted a brilliant Bowl tie against Portsmouth at Burnaby Road.

A packed crowd turned out to watch the floodlit game on a Friday evening.

Portsmouth won that night and went on to beat Trojans in the final.

‘The Bowl and Vase are thriving,’ added Highcock.

‘Across the two competitions we have 32 teams involved.

‘As for the cup, we have thought about turning it into an under-23 competition or even a midweek tournament.

‘But again there are not enough under-23 sides.

‘It is difficult to see a place for it in the rugby calendar at the moment.’