Havant 24 Tunbridge Wells 18
THIS was a vital game in the Wells’ campaign in London One South. Havant lay in second place, just four points above Tunbridge Wells in third.
With only one automatic promotion place to move up to National League Three and a play-off place for the second placed team only, the stakes were high – even with 11 games still to go.
Wells were without four regular second rows while in the backs Hayden Pope returned after a month out.
The visitors found themselves immediately under pressure from a Havant side seeking revenge for their 27-13 defeat at St Marks in September.
Having come close on two occasions Havant got over the line from a rolling maul try scored by No 7 Joe Davis but Joel Knight missed the conversion.
It was around the half-hour mark that Wells finally started to find some continuity.
On 34 minutes Havant’s Tom Blackburn received a yellow card for a high tackle and Frank Reynolds got Wells on the board. Yet twice in this match the visitors were to rue allowing Havant back into the game from the kick-off.
A smart move to the right culminated in a lack of Wells defence and a try for Joel Knight, though he could not convert.
Reynolds kicked another penalty to go into half-time at a respectable 10-6 down despite Havant’s domination for large parts of the first half.
The Wells backs started to look more the part in the second half, but it was the home side who countered from lost possession to allow No 8 Gavin Hart in for a try -converted by Knight, putting the hosts 17-6 ahead.
It was a case of ‘now or never’ after several minutes of Wells attacking in the Havant 22 and Mike Hathaway was deservedly driven over under the posts. Reynolds converted to make it 17-13.
Then the restart problem resurfaced. The hosts retrieved the ball from a Wells error in receiving and spun the ball wide for Knight to score. He also converted for a 24-13 lead on 76 minutes.
With a minute left, Havant’s Steve Cruddas received the second yellow card after Reynolds’ brilliant kick to the corner put the forwards under pressure.
Wells rolled the maul inexorably to the line and over for prop Turi Uini to force the touchdown.
Reynolds failed with the conversion as the final act of a -frustrating encounter in what had been Wells’ hardest away fixture of the season.