Bill Beaumont Senior Men's County Championship Division 1 South

Match report by Richard V Isaacs

A 52 yard penalty from Devon's Dan Mugford, with the last kick of the game, sent Hampshire to a cruel 30-27 defeat in a pulsating contest in the Bill Beaumont County Championship Division 1 South.

Ian Chandler's side came within a whisker of taking a deserved draw from the picturesque Okehampton ground, only for it to be snatched away by the crushing boot of the Plymouth Albion centre.

It was nip and tuck throughout the game despite Hampshire always playing catch-up and the game, between two evenly matched sides, with a joy to watch for the large crowd basking in the Devonian sunshine.

From the moment that Hampshire's kick off sailed into touch, it gave the hosts the early advantage.  Stealing a Hampshire line-out, Devon spread the ball to Mugford and he cut through the defence to open the scoring, Tom Putt adding the extras.

That lead lasted just four minutes as Hampshire hit back and some excellent work through the forwards allowed the impressive Havant scrum-half Jake Hewett to scoot near to the posts, giving Joel Knight an easy conversion.

Sadly, the Hampshire trait of conceding shortly after scoring continued again when Devon took a nice catch and drive and saw Plymouth lock John Kelly pile over from close range.

The home side were reduced to 13 men when both second rows, Kelly and Jamie Tripcony, were both given ten minutes off but Hampshrie failed to take advantage and it was the hosts who extended their lead with a Putt penalty.

A piece of individual brilliance from Jacob Knight helped sliced the lead to just three points.  His chip and collect in midfield released Chichester's former US Portsmouth full-back Tom Blewitt for a superb score, with Joel Knight posting the two.

Three minutes later and Devon were back on the board again but only when Hampshire's strong attack failed to find Gavin Hart and winger Billy Pinkus took full advantage to race down the right wing to score with the interception but Joel Knight ensured the deficit was just five points at the break with a successful penalty in injury time.

The second half could not have started any worse for Hampshire.  On fumbling the restart, from the resulting scrum, Pinkus was the beneficiary to score wide on the right, which could have taken the steam out of the visitors.

It didn't.

Joel Knight's penalty two minutes later once again brought Hampshire within a score before Devon saw a third yellow card of the afternoon, as their discipline continued to let them down, especially Kelly, already on a yellow, could have seen red for a late tackle of Harrison Young but just received a chat with the referee.

The game continued to flow from end to end but handling on both sides was the enemy, especially when Ben Russell's wonderful break was halted when his pass failed to find a team mate's safe hands.

Hampshire were not to be denied though with nine minutes remaining when Havant's Scott Morris finished off a great spell of play from the visitors' pack and Joel Knight's outstanding conversion levelled the scores.

It was all hands to the pump as both sides looked for the winning score and it could have come from Mugford but his penalty, in front of the posts from 30 yards was horribly pulled.

Unfortunately for the visitors, his 52 yard effort three minutes later, with zero seconds left on the clock, sailed between the uprights to joyous celebration in the Green and White camp but despair in the Blue and Red.

Hampshire now face a final match of the campaign against unbeaten Kent at Havant's Hooks Lane ground next Saturday (18 May) at 3pm to stave off a winless return to the top flight of England's Championship table.

HAMPSHIRE team: Tom Blewitt (Chichester), Scott Morris, Wayne Dugan, Joel Knight (capt), James Wise (all Havant), Jacob Knight (Sutton & Epsom), Jake Hewett; Armandus Morgan, Jerome Trail (all Havant), Luca Firetto, Ben Roberts (both Bournemouth), Harrison Young (Havant), Gavin Hart (Tottonians), Ben Russell (Bournemouth), Dan Munden (Havant).  Replacements: Luke Marks (Havant), Tom Waite (Andover), Tom Gregory (Tottonians), Darren Leggott (Portsmouth), Conrad Carkeet (Bournemouth), Wayne Dugan (Gosport & Fareham), Dylan Baptista (Maidenhead)

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