Table-topping H&B edge out high-flying rivals

Bruce Steadman kicked a hat-trick of penalties in Hastings & Bexhill's 9-7 win away to Cranbrook.
Bruce Steadman kicked a hat-trick of penalties in Hastings & Bexhill's 9-7 win away to Cranbrook.

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club overcame a significant obstacle in its quest to clinch the Kent One title.

A hat-trick of Bruce Steadman penalties gave leaders H&B a hard-fought 9-7 win away to third-placed Cranbrook on Saturday.

It was a dull and fairly miserable January afternoon, and though the pitch was in good condition, the pre-match rain had made the surface very greasy.

This didn't help the H&B backs in their efforts to produce the fast and flowing rugby that has been a characteristic of the club's success so far this season.

Both sides went into the game recognising the importance of the result and H&B made a determined start, immediately putting the home defence under pressure.

After Cranbrook conceded a penalty for offside at the ruck, Steadman stepped up and stroked the ball over the bar to give the visitors an early 3-0 lead.

Possessing some big men in their pack, Cranbrook matched the H&B forwards in the scrummage and had a height advantage in the lineout, despite the return of H&B skipper Jimmy Adams. This made every set-play a tense and gruelling struggle for possession and advantage, with the honours fairly even.

Cranbrook won the ball at a scrum just inside H&B's half and their scrum-half initiated a miss man move to put the centre in the clear for a well-taken try, which was converted to give Cranbrook a 7-3 lead.

Steadman landed another well-struck penalty to make the half time score 7-6, which in fairness reflected the play. Even; but with a small home advantage.

The second half was almost identical to the first with neither side able to build the momentum to gain an advantage.

H&B dug deep into their resources to compensate for the sin-binning of hooker Joe Umpleby and managed to survive his 10-minute absence without conceding another score.

Fly-half Steadman put H&B back in front with his third successful penalty of the day and it turned out to be the decisive moment as Cranbrook suffered a first home loss of the season.

The introduction of substitutes Tony Roche, Paul Sandeman and Ben Campbell with their fresh legs helped H&B hang on to their slender lead until the referee, who had managed a tough game well, blew the final whistle.

Kent One top three (all played 15 matches): 1 HASTINGS & BEXHILL 68pts, 2 Old Williamsonians 61, 3 Cranbrook 50.

See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make this website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!