After a great pre-season the Academy looked as good as I had seen since my start, all the players keen to re-establish their dominance of the league as we did last year. As always with so many new players coming in just getting the team to click was the biggest challenge for the coaching team.
The Academy had put together some good pre-season results beating Camberley 26 -14 and looked good for a strong start to the season. Our first game was against last years semi-finalist Winchester, a massive challenge for our first game. The boys started very well pulling away 12 nil, the game became very scrappy; Havant wasting procession time after time; dropped passes, miss timing and poor decision making allowed Winchester to stay in the game.
Havant had five chances to score cancelled out, and awarded Winchester three interception tries, failing to score in the final minutes while camped on the opposition try line, the final score ended with us on the wrong end of a 31 – 22 score line, but so much more was learnt from that loss.
The squad reflected and a Captains brief was held, it was clear that the team had just not clicked yet! The following week the 1XV stepped up and although not pretty beat Tottionians 17 – 12, again gifting two easy tries, our Dev squad faired better beating Fareham Heathens on the road 31 – 7.
This week was a different story, Andover away. Andover have always loved to mix it up with a strong forward display and in the past Havant have engaged in an arm wrestle but have always come out on top. The Havant squad carrying so many absent players through injury travelled light with just one front row replacement. Havant started strong piling pressure on the kick-off and engulfing the catcher to secure the scrum deep in the opposition half.
The Andover forwards carried hard, testing the Havant defence that had to be at its very best, a fumble in the Andover 22 meant Havant gained some valuable possession, quick interplay between forwards and backs saw LH – Eyre step his man to score.
The restart was messy Havant knocking on gifting the heavier Andover forwards some good field position. Despite wave after wave of Andover surges forward, the Havant defence was solid and eventually falsed a turnover; moved quickly the sharper looking Havant backs kicked perfectly turning the opposition, quick phase play saw N8 – Double easily power his way through to score.
12 nil up Havant looked solid and despite some strong play in the Andover forwards, Havant had the measure in both their back line and defence. At the Halfway we knew we needed a strong start, keep Andover in their half was the coaches brief, another dropped ball from the kick off gifted Andover again who scored a soft try in the corner.
As the game went on Andover tried again and again to dominate through their forwards but Havant were immense, their best defensive display seen to date; HUS, Forster, Mills and Minto putting in a serious shift emptying the tank for their team. Much of the game was played in the Andover half, a mistake from the scrum again gifted Andover a chance which they took, and the game was level 19 – 19 in the dying minutes.
Inspirational Captain, FH – Worsley and pack leader; F - HUS drove the charge back, rallying the squad – Nothing but a win was good enough and up the field the team went, good pressure from the kick off, with some massive hits from Eyres and Mills pushed the Andover team back inside their 22.
Mills took a fantastic line almost going all the way, three then four players could not bring the powerful prop down, eventually tackled he presented well for quick thinking and dynamic back row HUS the chance to pick up and drive for the line – 24 – 19 in favour of Havant the final whistle brought an end to an epic match between two very determined sides. Our Dev squad hit by missing players and others out of position held a stronger Bognor team to a 17 – 17 home draw maintaining their seasons unbeaten record.
Man of the Match awards:
1XV: LH – Forster
Dev Squad: LH - Sinden
Next week the Academy face Trojans and Vectis, both fixtures are away 2pm KO. #Upthe hill.