Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club missed out on a runners-up finish - and with it a promotion play-off - after a narrow away defeat on Saturday.
Beccehamian went into the final day of the season lying second in Kent One, but their 34-31 loss away to Southwark Lancers left the door open.
H&B started third and Williamsonians fourth, and Williamsonians’ 19-8 victory saw them leapfrog H&B and Beccehamian to clinch second spot.
H&B eventually ended up fifth - behind fourth-placed HSBC - but were just four points behind Williamsonians, and scored more points and conceded fewer than all of the three clubs immediately above them.
“We’re not ready to go up so being in Kent One is not a bad position,” said H&B backs’ coach Kit Claughton. “The league campaign’s been really good and the feeling is we’re a good Kent One team. Eventually I think we’ll be a good London Three team, but we’re going to have to work on that.
“The team spirit’s great, and the players want to learn and get better. I think our defence has been a lot better, our breakdown has been a lot better, but we’ve lost home and away to the teams above us.”
The long grass didn’t suit the fast game both sides wanted to play. The pitch was also quite narrow and defences were on top for the most part.
Playing with the slight slope, H&B dominated the opening quarter of the match and Bruce Steadman kicked a penalty to give them a 3-0 lead.
Just as H&B seemed to have weathered a Williamsonians storm, the hosts scored the game’s first try from a driving maul following a kick to the corner, giving them a 5-3 half time advantage.
Mark Piotrowski dived over midway through the second half to put H&B back in front at 8-5, but influential full-back Harry Walker was yellow carded for a team offence and Williamsonians took advantage with two quick tries.
Steadman did well at scrum-half, disrupting the opposite number nine and providing good service. Calvin Crosby-Clarke had a powerful game in the back row, Steve McManus and Piotrowski carried well, and Ben Petty formed a good centre partnership with Chas Ackerley.
H&B’s season isn’t over yet and their Sussex Shield quarter-final away to Bognor will now be played this coming Saturday.
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