Combe power up front wins the day
By John Vallely
Westcombe Park RFC 22-10 Havant RFC
It is to Havant's credit that they maintained a lead over or parity with Combe until well into the second period. However, an increasingly dominant home pack shoved their opposite numbers around the pitch both at scrum time and in the maul to provide the platform for a satisfying victory.
The game couldn't have started better for the visitors. Combe messed up their exit strategy at kickoff, gifting the ball to Havant who progressed deep into Combe territory brushed off a couple of tackle attempts to score with just over a minute on the clock. The try was converted.
The next 30 minutes or so saw both sides huff and puff as they tried to gain the upper hand. The gusting wind and a continuous smirr of rain across the pitch were making handling difficult. Combe centre Bryan Young was much in evidence stripping the ball and making inroads, then tidying up loose ball and handing off attempts to slow him deep in Havant territory. Combe weren't having it all their own way with Havant's powerful hooker Jerome Trail bashing his way upfield in the close quarter exchanges.
On the 30 minute mark Westcombe Park finally got on the scoreboard through the boot of James Cameron when Havant were penalised for holding on after Combe had put together some effective and efficient phase play. Havant hit back with a penalty of their own after only a few minutes had passed to keep their lead by a converted try.
As the half was coming to a close Combe kept the pressure up and a fine Charlie O'Sullivan break got the home side deep into Havant territory. The pressure drew a penalty in the red zone which saw Havant down to 14 men. Combe took the scrum option and scrum half Bradley Smith ran a risky L-shaped run to score wide on the right. Cameron slotted a difficult conversion to bring the scores level.
The half ended with Combe on the front foot with centres Brad Saffrey and Young strong in attack and the first sign of the driving maul which would help Combe win the game.
Combe's defence was tested at the start of the second period with flanker Dave Pohlen chasing hard out to the touchline to make a robust tackle and the whole team performing an excellent exit strategy when under pressure at a Havant line out on Combe's 5m line.
2 penalties conceded by the visitors gave Combe good field position on the 22m line. From the line out Combe built an effective maul which moved at a good rate of knots over the line for flanker Milligan to claim the score. Owen Church-Mills, on for James Cameron who had taken a bit of a battering in the 1st half, slotted the points to put Combe into the lead for the first time in the match.
On 55 minutes Westcombe Park extended their lead. Converted lock Dylan Eames was on at prop and seemed to relish his role in driving Havant off their own ball at scrum time. Combe took full advantage of a fractured defence and wing Joe Birch sped in for a try wide out on the left. Church-Mills was unlucky to see his kick rebound off a post.
The Goddington Dene side pushed hard for the try which would bring the bonus point. But despite dominance at scrum time, the maul eating up yards and a number of penalties in Havant territory, a combination of good defence from the visitors and over exuberance from the home team, the match ended 22-10 to Combe.
A welcome win for Combe coupled with the rare fact of no serious injuries made for a happy clubhouse after the game and it was good to see Havant players and supporters enjoying Combe hospitality. Next week Combe are away to Dartfordians and then at home to Thurrock as the season hits the halfway point. A brace of wins in these two games would make for a happy Christmas.
Westcombe Park RFC: Simmons T, Hackett, Forsyth, Clarke, Pass, Milligan, Pohlen, O'Sullivan, Smith, Cameron, Hamilton, Young, Saffrey, Livett, Church-Mills
Replacements: Eames, Delderfield, Birch
Man of the match: Bradley Saffrey
Match Report: John Vallely