Havant show class to give Chichester a scare

Havant come under pressure from Chichester. Picture: Louise Adams
Havant come under pressure from Chichester. Picture: Louise Adams
Steve Cruddas will start for Havant. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Matthews: Unbeaten streak key to Havant’s promotion charge

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Rob Matthews praised his Havant battlers as they pushed second-placed Chichester all the way in London one south.

In awful conditions, the away team more than matched their high-flying hosts and deservedly picked up a vital bonus point from a 24-18 defeat.

If Havant had been more clinical in the Chichester twenty-two, though, director of rugby Matthews believes they could easily have pulled off a shock win.

‘At the hour mark we looked as though we could go on and win it,’ he said.

‘In the end they used the conditions to pin us back and their well-organised forwards rolled over to grab the vital score.

‘If they are the second-best team in our league then we should be up there competing with them.

‘Our three-quarters were infinitely superior to theirs and tore them apart at times.

‘After going in front in the first half – playing with the conditions behind us – we had further opportunities to push on.

‘We failed to take that chance and allowed them back into it.’

Havant started well taking the game to Chichester up front and with Ben Brierley making some powerful runs from the centre.

But conditions were treacherous, with gale-force winds and rain making life difficult for both teams.

A chance went begging when Harry O’Brien knocked the slippery ball on 15 yards from the Chichester line.

It was Havant who were rewarded on 10 minutes, though, with second-row forward Bruce Neil breaking off the back of a driving maul to open the scoring.

Joel Knight converted and knocked over a penalty to give Havant a 10-0 lead.

‘We were in the ascendancy at that point and our backs were tearing them apart at will,’ said Matthews.

‘Unfortunately we conceded a try and a penalty before the break to let them back in.’

Playing against the conditions in the second period, it was no surprise Havant found themselves coming under increased pressure.

Chichester took the lead with a try from a driving maul but defiantly Havant hit straight back with a Dave Sweeney score.

From that point on, Chichester’s forwards resorted to the pick-up-and-drive which gave them the winning advantage.

‘The result was frustrating but our performance gives us great encouragement,’ said Matthews.

‘For long periods we were the dominant side and that is a sign of just how far we have come since the start of the season.

‘Again I hope we have learned a few lessons.

‘There were times in the second half when we had penalties close to the Chichester line.

‘We chose to tap and go when it might have been better to opt for a set-piece and let our superior backs have a go at them.’