An unholy trinity of pelting rain, a slippery pitch and a feral Snowdown defence brought an unceremonious end to Hastings & Bexhill’s run of flamboyant performances on Saturday - and in the process an end to Snowdown’s two-year unbeaten home record.
But a grimly dogged-out victory against the newly promoted and almost excessively fired-up East Kent warriors was a reminder that a successful season in our fickle climate demands a wide range of team skills and qualities, cerebral as well as physical. Put together, their first two Kent One league performances suggest that at this level H&B may be developing into a team for all seasons.
Snowdown kicked off, H&B testing the defence with sensible attacks up the middle, their offloading and pick-and-goes repulsed by fierce tackling, until a penalty for backchat gave the hosts a tricky penalty kick for an early lead, which they took.
H&B hit back 10 minutes later, when a penalty kick to the corner, led to a maul from the lineout being held up short of the line. Twice H&B players were repulsed, Mark Piotrowski making it third time lucky with a try converted by Bruce Steadman for a 3-7 lead.
Midweek work on the scrummaging machine paid dividends as H&B’s set scrum, pushed around in recent games, gave Snowdown’s pack - accustomed to dominating in this area - a torrid afternoon.
A loose kick out of defence by Snowdown led to the other try of the game, slick H&B handling and a clever Steadman inside pass to Anthony Roche who found Jake Stinson outside him to finish off, 3-12
On the stroke of half time, following a fractious passage of play in their own half, H&B were again penalised for an offence at the ruck, Snowdown’s kick closing the gap to 6-12.
In the second half, the game turned shapeless at times, with H&B’s precision dropping off as they were sucked into Snowdown’s scrappier style of play - exacerbated by both sides’ ineffective occasional kicking from hand.
Snowdown never gave up trying to drag a win out of the fire, but their enthusiastic energies were more destructive than constructive.
While both sides’ rugged defences were dominant, and H&B’s normally explosive strike runners had a subdued afternoon well-marshalled by Snowdown, it was nonetheless the visitors who mounted all the dangerous attacks and always looked more likely to add to the score.
The closest they came, though, was from a Chaz Ackerley break that put Stinson away.
Tomas Vincent made some powerful runs on his first start, Tim Sills off the bench after injury looked sharp, and the half-backs controlled a wet ball well in difficult conditions.
Cynical ‘afters’ on try-saving tackler Calvin Crosby-Clarke, on from the bench, left him concussed and nursing a fractured eye socket; the second H&B player sidelined for several weeks by unpunished attacks recently - hopefully not a foretaste of this season’s refereeing.
H&B: Roche, Vincent, S. McManus, Adams (c), Piotrowski, F. McManus, Stern, Hanagarth, Elphick, Steadman, Stinson, Claughton, Ackerley, Campbell, Walker. Subs (all used): Sills, Crosby-Clarke, Sewell.
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