On Saturday, Hove kicked off their 2019 league campaign with a precious win against travelling Old Alleynian’s. The sun was out, beer was flowing and spectators were in fine spirit. Hove went into the match feeling fit off the back of a strong pre-season, and with a win over Chobham the previous weekend, felt confident of a result. However, it is fair to say that they struggled to find their rhythm on Saturday and credit must be given to the visiting side for pushing them all the way.
Hove kicked off the match attacking the Shirley Drive end, and immediately started strongly. Old Alleynian’s struggled to get out of their half to begin with, and a period of pressure resulted in Hove being awarded a penalty which Casanova duly converted, 3-0. A number of unforced errors and infringements from both sides resulted a fairly stop-start beginning to the game. One positive that can be taken was the Hove scrum, which had momentum for the majority of the contest.
Old Alleynian’s however, began to apply pressure of their own in attack now and Hove gave away a string of penalties. The pressure finally told as Old Alleynian’s levelled the score at 3 apiece. Some resolute defending on Hove’s part ensured that the visitors kicked a fair percentage of the ball away in the first half. A wayward kick saw a great counterattacking move where the ball was spread quickly from one side of the pitch to the other, before winger Rene Pavlides went round the outside of his winger to set inside centre Phil Dugard up for the first try of the match. In typical Pavlides style, this one burst of energy was enough for the winger, as after this he began to complain of a slight groin injury. Casanova couldn’t convert this time, probably due to him not being used to wearing the correct socks, making the score 8-3. At this point, spectators were hoping that Hove would find their rhythm, however Old Alleynian’s had other ideas, and a dropped pass by Hove allowed them to pounce and they went in under the sticks. Conversion successful, they took the lead at 8-10.
The half wasn’t over yet however, and Hove hit back shortly afterwards. Hooker, Chris Knott took the ball at first receiver and, with handling skills that many currently in Japan would be happy with, expertly pulled the release pass out the back to Dugard who showed rare pace to beat a few defenders before diving in at the corner for his second of the match. Half time score, 13-10.
The second half kicked-off, and Hove immediately conceded another penalty. The visitors took full advantage and levelled the scores to 13-13. There was a lengthy break in play as outside centre Emmerson went down with a nasty looking ankle injury. Thankfully, we’ve now found out nothing was broken, and so it appears Emmerson just wanted to check that Kev still knew where the stretcher was. At this point Charlie Watts joined the fray having just landed from holiday, and immediately made an impact. Watts picked up powerfully from the back of a scrum and drove his way over in the far corner; clearly a weeks’ worth of Sangria is the best preparation before a game. Casanova was unable to convert this time, clearly it was the socks, 18-13. Credit to Old Alleynian’s, as the visitors came straight back at Hove and continued to pound on the door. A period of solid defence however, forced the visiting fly half to make a very well taken drop goal. 18-16.
An unusual period of Hove attack in the second half, nearly resulted in a moment of magic. Prop Declan Peake picked up the ball, and like Moses himself, the sea seemed to part in front of him. Peake made the initial break superbly before finding himself in unchartered territory. With defenders closing in fast, the Hove faithful was praying one of Hove’s speedsters would be in support to finish off Peake’s hard work. But unfortunately he turned and passed to lock Ian Saunders, who despite his efforts was caught with ease. Hove managed to win another penalty which Casanova successfully converted, clearly starting to get used to the new socks, 21-16.
In the final stage of the match Hove were hit by an onslaught from Old Alleynian’s, however their defence stayed firm, which is testament to the defensive work they put in during the off-season. Final score 21-16.
A scrappy game at times, and there is a lot to improve on if Hove are going to achieve the targets that they have set themselves, however they will be pleased to come away with a win against a tough visiting side who I’m sure will have a successful season themselves.