Talk about a comeback of epic proportions. With the investment of theirs in mainstream presentation as a gaze around ground would tell, Havelocks SC forged a folkloric rearguard to seize a match 22-20 against Navy SC who had remained unbeaten with the home side till yesterday.
The revolution was complete when Samoan born-New Zealander Atuviu Niva sent the ball through the uprights in the maddening final minutes of the game after Lee Keegel had located a hole in the repelling Navy defence to tie the scores.
A tale of two halves it was. Navy put the squeeze on Havies to claim the wind that put their ship on a cruise in the first half which rewarded them with 20 unanswered points. But a more clinical and psyched up version of the hosts nailed them in the end.
The start couldn’t have been starker from the finish as Havies monopolized possession and made no inroads in the first 10 minutes including two fluffed penalty attempts by Mohamed Sheriff. Navy then began to exhibit signs of something developing and the Fijian center Ratu Taniela opened the scoring showing the Havies the worth of a calm head. Dev Anand supplemented with the conversion but before the thrill of the try could wear off Navy captain was yellow carded for a high tackle by referee Aruna Rankothge.
Havies took the safe bet and was punished for the leniency when Sheriff completed his trio of doomed kicks at the target. Then Anand struck with a trademark drop goal from 30 metres and before Havies could use their lungs, Setafano Cakaunivalu-who played the match after overcoming an injury worry- blazed through the middle to plant a try which Anand had no heartache in converting.
Taniela zipped a 45 metre penalty before the breather to hand Navy a heavy cushion of 20-0 and whatever dressing down-which must have included some stern words-Havies got at the half time began to unravel. First it was in form winger Sandun Herath near the corner flag in the 45th minute and next Sheriff compensated for his sins in the first half via a dashing 20 metre run which cut the deficit to 10 with 25 minutes remaining.
Navy had realized this was far from over from then on and the defence was increasingly turning into a bridge too far to cross. But the sniff came when Sumedha Malewana was shown a yellow card and spurred by the man advantage; Dushmantha Priyadharshana went over for the third try to the utter shock of not only Navy fans but the Havies’ ones too who were marvelling at the fortitude.
As it turned out, Keegel took whatever smile there was on Navy faces to polish off the game and the visitors had forfeited a lead from a unbeatable position.
After the refurbishment of Havelock Park though they had dandled with CH&FC, this was the match that told a revealing anecdote. This is a Havelock’s side that’s setting their sights on bigger and richer prizes, namely the league. The controlled celebrations at least told so.