H&B pile on points in convincing win
HASTINGS & Bexhill's best start to a season continued with a 68-0 drubbing of Burgess Hill on Saturday.
Twelve well-worked tries without reply - one by super-veteran hooker Dave Sprinks, who must surely remember three-point tries and leather studs - and a sparkling Robinsonesque debut at full-back by Tom Brampton, were just some of the highlights of a thoroughly entertaining Sussex Division One game.
The more intensive coaching introduced this season is clearly paying off, both in team spirit and in technical improvements, notably ball presentation and consequent faster ruck ball.
Assured and varied orchestration of the game by the combative half-back Claughton brothers is allowing a talented selection of backline players to combine with far more accuracy and sophistication than in previous seasons.
Best of all, H&B hit the ground running these days; in this instance, increasingly effective No.8 Steve McManus received the ball from the kick-off, passed to Kit Claughton, whose long attacking kick to the corner was well-chased. A hurried clearance by Hill's full-back was well fielded by Nick Edmunds, who started it moving through backs' and forwards' hands to Tom Brampton for the first touchdown, with barely a minute played.
The half continued in the same vein, with the pack winning enough quick ball for the versatile attack to keep Hill baffled, and tries were created at regular intervals from all over the field, and from turnovers as well as training-paddock moves.
The ever-hungry Danny Ralph scored three, Brampton a pair, and centre David Northen, Kit Claughton, Sprinks, lock Neil Redman, flanker Roger Roberts and substitutes George Cullingford and Ben Walcott (the latter with his first touch of the ball) one each.
It was not just the quantity, but the quality, of the tries that impressed the touchline. The ball was moved well through the hands of forwards and backs, prompting Hill's coach to observe that H&B looked to be the best side in the league by some way.
That still has to be seen, as H&B have in the past posted big scores past weaker sides but failed to step up when it came to vital games. This side does look different, though. There's a greater purpose and ambition about them - they kept out a determined Hill fightback in the second half through sheer grit - and they are showing increased fitness and skills.
What's more, there is substantial strength in depth. This week they were without Paul Sandeman, Dave Milham, Jimmy Adams, Ben Davies, and Tristan Todd. They have yet to field the same team two weeks running.
"It was a superb performance - the best so far," enthused the normally phlegmatic head coach Roger Stanley. "We produced much quicker ruck ball - we've been working on that, so it was very satisfying. Brampton was very good at full-back. Roger Roberts was everywhere, Andy Dalton (lock) had a good game. Ralph scored a good hat-trick. I'm very pleased."