Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club agonisingly missed out on a promotion and cup double.
Kent One runners-up H&B were edged out 8-7 by Sussex One champions Pulborough in a hard-fought Sussex Shield final at a windswept Heathfield & Waldron RFC this afternoon (Saturday).
From the early stages it was clear that a close contest was in store between two clubs who will face each other in London Three South East next season. The first real scoring opportunity came in the 26th minute when Pulborough were denied by a knock on close to the H&B line.
H&B were unable to clear their defensive lines, though, and Pulborough took a 5-0 lead in the 29th minute when a catch and drive following a lineout took them over the tryline. The conversion was missed.
With the wind at their backs before the break, H&B hit back seven minutes later. A series of pick and drives ended with inside centre Piers Claughton rumbling over the line and full-back Tom Waring kicking a good conversion for a 7-5 lead.
Claughton was sin-binned shortly before half time for tackling a player not in possession of the ball, but Pulborough were then penalised when close to the H&B line. The early part of the second half was very much a stalemate amid a raft of penalties, the majority of which were given against the attacking team.
Pulborough grabbed what turned out to be the winning points in the 53rd minute through a penalty kicked by their outside centre. The West Sussex outfit missed a very kickable penalty from just inside the H&B 22 some 15 minutes later and another more difficult kick two minutes after that.
Pulborough had a man sent to the sin bin in the 72nd minute and shortly afterwards both sides had a player yellow carded so the game ended 14 versus 13. H&B got within a couple of yards of Pulborough’s line at one point only to be penalised yet again.
Six minutes of added time were played at the end of the 80 minutes, but Pulborough held on for the victory. It was the second successive season that H&B have lost by one point in the Sussex Shield final having won the competition back in 2012.