Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club has avoided relegation despite losing its penultimate match of the season.
H&B were beaten 33-17 away to Park House on Saturday, but will remain in London Three South East because Folkestone are guaranteed to finish in the final demotion spot of third-from-bottom after losing to leaders Aylesford Bulls.
Park House overpowered H&B in this very hard-fought game, although enforced changes of personnel and position put H&B on the back foot from the start.
Dominic Sewell came into the second row and teenager Leon Driver played on the right wing. Stash Maltby moved to the left wing as Eliot Parry came back at scrum-half.
Harry Walker hadn’t arrived at kick-off because of train difficulties so Tucker White played for the first 10 minutes, during which time Park House took the lead with a penalty.
Walker’s arrival allowed Tom Waring to change to centre, where he made an immediate impact. Fly-half Dan Suggitt made a defence-splitting pass and Waring scored under the posts before converting his own try to give H&B a 7-3 lead with 12 minutes played.
Joe Umpleby had to leave the field for a head injury assessment, forcing Jack James to move to hooker and Mike Clifford came on in the back row.
Park House capitalised on this further disruption by scoring three tries, two of which were converted, as well as kicking a penalty. Waring replied with a good penalty kick from over 30 metres out, making the half time score 25-10.
Joe Umpleby returned to the pack, with Anthony Roche replacing Jacob McDonough and Clifford taking Sewell’s place in the second row.
H&B dominated the next 25 minutes. The pack more than matched some very big men in the home side and forced a good try for John Hanagarth. The number eight picked up the ball at the base of the scrum and crashed over for a try which was converted by Waring.
A losing bonus point was on the cards for H&B if they could build on that try, but Park House came back with a penalty and another try, giving them the win.
Standings (played 21 matches unless stated): 1 Aylesford Bulls 92pts. 2 Thanet Wanderers 84, 3 Old Williamsonians (22) 66, 4 Bromley 64, 5 Old Dunstonians 64, 6 Lewes (22) 55, 7 Crowborough 55, 8 Park House (22) 53, 9 HASTINGS & BEXHILL 49, 10 Folkestone 42, 11 Sheppey 9, 12 Crawley (22) -4.
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