Unbeaten H&B gear up for top-of-the-table clash

Action from Hastings & Bexhill's game at home to New Ash Green last weekend. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker
Action from Hastings & Bexhill's game at home to New Ash Green last weekend. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club will be aiming to take a significant step towards the league title with victory in a top-of-the-table clash.

Kent One leaders H&B will seek to continue their season-long unbeaten record when they travel to second-placed Old Williamsonians tomorrow (Saturday).

Joe Umpleby on the charge for Hastings & Bexhill against New Ash Green. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

Joe Umpleby on the charge for Hastings & Bexhill against New Ash Green. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

H&B head coach Chris Brooks said: “It will not be disastrous if we lose because we’ve got a bit of padding (points advantage over their pursuers). We can lose against Williamsonians and still be ahead of the game; we just don’t want to.”

H&B have won all of their nine league games so far, scoring more points than anybody else in the division and conceding fewer. In fact, no other team even comes close to H&B’s remarkable record of shipping just 58 points in the league so far.

They hold a nine-point advantage over Williamsonians, who have won seven and lost two of their nine matches, and third-placed Cranbrook.

“They will want to stay in touch with us,” continued Brooks. “We’ve just got to focus and make sure we play our best game. If we don’t, they will take advantage. I’m expecting a real nail-biter.

H&B go over for a try against New Ash Green. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

H&B go over for a try against New Ash Green. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

“They’re going to be fired up and they play quite expansive rugby as well. They’ve got a competent pack and some flyers out wide so our defence will have to be on the ball. Our defence has been the foundation for our victories and it’s the pivotal part of our game.”

Brooks says H&B must improve from their 24-10 win at home to third-bottom New Ash Green last weekend.

“We won ugly,” he added. “It was a very scrappy game on our part. Despite their lowly standing in the league, New Ash Green are a well-drilled outfit. It was a tough game, but we just didn’t click in most departments.

“The ball was a bit greasy, but our wide handling wasn’t going to hand, we weren’t looking after the ball that well in the rucks and it was just one of those days.

“The guys were disappointed with their performance and our discipline was poor in places as well. We had a very mediocre game and still came away with a bonus point win so I shouldn’t be so disappointed.

“But we’ve set the bar high. There’s a definite feeling throughout the senior squads that we can make this a very successful season and when we don’t play well, there’s a tendency to be very self-critical.

“We know what we need to work on and the fact that we do need to work on it is acknowledged throughout the squad. We’ll work on the weaknesses at training this week with a view to hitting the ground running on Saturday.”

As has been the case throughout the campaign so far, H&B still have a few injury problems to contend with for what will be their final away fixture of 2016.

Ben Petty remains sidelined, Jake Stinson still has to sit out another week following the concussion he sustained earlier in the month and the fitness of John Hanagarth will be assessed.

After tomorrow’s clash, H&B will contest three consecutive home fixtures - against Beccehamian (in round three of the London & SE Junior Vase on December 3), Sittingbourne on December 10 and Snowdown CW on December 17 - before the festive break.

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