Hastings & Bexhill head coach Chris Brooks says the rugby club has proved it belongs in London Three South East this season.
Last season’s Kent One champions consolidated their place at the next level up by finishing in ninth position - one place and three points above the third and final relegation spot.
Brooks said: “We’ve ended probably a little bit lower than we would’ve liked early in the season, but we’ve proved to ourselves we belong in this league and not the one below.
“Overall it’s been quite a successful season. We lost more than we won, but I’m happy with nine wins and a draw (from 22 matches).”
Although they possessed an identical win-drawn-loss record to relegated Folkestone, the table was so congested that H&B, with 50 points, were only six points outside the top half.
“It was incredible actually,” continued Brooks. “Normally get to 40 points and you’re safe. It’s a very competitive league and it’s great fun to be part of it.
“The guys recognise the need to train in order to maintain any kind of chance of remaining within the league. The last time we went up we got pretty heavily hammered most weeks and came straight back down. No doubt the club has developed in all departments.
“We’ve managed to blood so many young players, some of them regularly. Jack James and Chaz Ackerley really came of age this year, and Stash Maltby made his presence felt towards the end of the season. We’ve also played other youngsters like Sam Surridge and Leon Driver.”
H&B won all of their home matches against clubs in the bottom half and the victories in their final two home games, against fifth-placed Old Dunstonians and seventh-placed Lewes, proved crucial.
“I suspect there were probably many highlights,” added Brooks. “Certainly pulling it out of the bag against Dunstonians and Lewes were the highlights of the latter half of the season.”
Brooks is now stepping down from the head coach role, but will still be around the club.
He said: “I’ve had three years as lead coach, three years as forwards’ coach before that and before that I was colts’ coach for years. It’s been a few years of fairly heavy commitment.”
Final standings (all played 22 matches): 1 Aylesford Bulls 97pts. 2 Thanet Wanderers 89, 3 Bromley 69, 4 Old Williamsonians 66, 5 Old Dunstonians 64, 6 Crowborough 56, 7 Lewes 55, 8 Park House 53, 9 HASTINGS & BEXHILL 50, 10 Folkestone 47, 11 Sheppey 9, 12 Crawley -4.
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