Medway 35-14 Havant
Medway 35-14 Havant

On Saturday Medway entertained Hampshire rivals Havant at Priestfields. In bright, warm and sunny conditions that were ideal for rugby the large crowd eagerly awaited this clash of the teams that just missed out on promotion last season finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively .

Medway opened the scoring after 4 minutes when Havant were penalised for an infringement at  he breakdown. Harvey kicking the goal from 32 metres out. 3-0.

Havant are a big powerful side and they soon got into their stride, inaccuracies at the line out by Medway gave the visitors the front foot ball desired and they made it pay. Good continuity between their forwards and backs saw them cross the line for a try that was converted and gave them the lead 7-3.

Medway soon lost both James Dance and Richard Petch to the blood bin following an accidental clash of heads. They were replaced by Tom Whitnell and Zac Garratt, making his 1st XV debut.

During this period good work from new signing Lewis Stimpson forced Havant to infringe once more and Harvey was on hand to bring the score back to 7-6. Petch and Dance were soon restored but not after replacement Garratt and Whitnell and shown up well together with Antony Clement who deputised at 9 in a re-shuffled back division.

Havant continued to press with their powerful forwards and despite missing very kickable penalties still added to their score. A blindside attack from the scrum saw them get over the gain line, good phases from their forwards allowed their hooker to break the cover defence and score a well taken converted try and push their lead out to 14-6. Havant continued to force the game but Medway defended well.

On 33 minutes the accurate Harvey was given another chance as a result of the visitors poor discipline at the breakdown. He made no mistake and the score was 14-9.

Medway went into half time trailing and needing to establish their game, improve their basics and show more patience.

Harvey was on hand to do just that after the re-start. Another splendid kick from 45 metres sailed over and the gap was down to 14-12 and Havant were paying the price for their indiscipline.

The next 30 minutes saw Medway play some excellent tactical attacking rugby, their best of the game. Amon Panikoula dominated the re-starts securing front foot ball for Medway. Good field position and turnover ball at the line out saw the backs strike and Alfie Orris finished well out wide. Harvey was unerringly accurate with the boot and Medway led 19-12.

Medway’s home support was in full cry as fullback Ryan Redman’s good positional kick saw Havant’s big forwards turned and make another error at their line out. From the resultant scrum Medway forced Havant into conceding yet another penalty. Harvey made it 22-14.

Once again Panikoula secured Medway possession from the re-start, Havant concede a penalty. Harvey this time hits the cross bar but Havant knock on as they try to play out. With scrum dominance Medway once again drove the visitors backwards and they conceded the inevitable penalty. Harvey secured the points to make the score 25-14.

Havant were now playing catch up rugby and trying to play from deep to get back into the game. Lewis Stimpson and Tom Beaumont combined well to win another penalty at the breakdown. Harvey accurate as ever made the score 28-14. Havant paid the price for so many penalties and their Hooker was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

Harvey and Redman continued to pin Havant back. Havant tried to play out but excellent pressure from Medway ensured they were pinned back in their 22m when Orris drove their winger into touch. The resultant line out saw Medway attack. Havant defended well for a few phases but eventually James Dance and Captain Mike Gardner combined to put Gardner over from short range. Harvey added the extras to put the game beyond the visitors reach. Medway closed the game out to win by 35-14.

Coach Taff Gwilliam said: This is an excellent start to the season, Havant are a good and powerful side who beat us last season and I have no doubt will be right up there this time. Our second half performance was tactically excellent. The players improved as the game went on.

The club’s development programme continues to bring young lads through to the 1st XV. Adam Dady and Zac Garratt the latest. Combined with the signings of Lewis Stimpson, Amon Panikoula and the welcome return of Ryan Redman from Tunbridge Juddians Medway look to have a stronger squad and will want to build on this fine victory.