A bravura performance by Hastings & Bexhill shot the rugby club into the Sussex Shield final, and one win away from an historic league and cup double.
Playing a high-speed, exuberant, occasionally rather loose game, Kent One champions H&B won 71-0 away to a Hove second team which finished in the bottom half of Sussex One.
H&B put Hove under pressure from kick-off, but it was 10 minutes before H&B won a penalty and Bruce Steadman kicked the visitors into a 3-0 lead.
Five minutes later a perfectly timed inside ball from Kit Claughton to Mark Piotrowski and a pop from him to Tom Waring put the latter in under the posts, Steadman converting 10-0.
Hove ran hard at H&B’s line, a certain try stopped by Jake Stinson’s textbook tackle. From the resultant penalty and lineout, Waring - having his best game this season - made a brilliant break and timed his pass to Harry Walker, who fed Stinson to race in for an outstanding backs’ try, 17-0.
H&B continued to attack with relish, but the odd ill-judged pass and turnover at the breakdown were keeping Hove in the game. Good close-quarter passing and driving by the forwards saw skipper Jimmy Adams flop over the line, Steadman converting, 24-0.
A mazy break by Claughton - a slow motion reprise of his younger, faster days - was taken on by Chris Stern and Steadman, with Joe Umpleby’s pass putting Stinson in for his second try, Steadman converting the difficult kick, for a 31-0 half time lead.
Moments into the second half John Hanagarth shouldered his way over the line for a 36-0 lead, then from a desperate Hove clearance kick, Walker casually trapped the ball with his foot, ran it back, and Adams was striding in for his second try, 43-0.
H&B were continuing to play entertaining attacking rugby, using the whole pitch, and a beautiful step and change of direction by Steadman made the space for Adams to thunder in for his hat-trick 12 minutes into the half, 50-0.
For a while the scoring stalled, until Stern - moved from the flank to the wing when Chaz Ackerley came off after a hard-tackling, hard-running comeback from injury - scored a fine winger’s try, a step and a dummy seeing off two defenders to put him under the posts, 57-0.
Hove’s centre was only kept out by Walker’s enveloping last-ditch tackle. A further attack was turned over by H&B, Walker setting off from his own red zone, Waring finishing under the posts, 64-0.
A powerful break by Calvin Crosby-Clarke, on for Hanagarth, then good hands ending with a zippy inside pass by Steadman for Piotrowski to dive over for the final score of the day, and Steadman’s 10th successful kick, 71-0.
The referee, who had an exemplary anonymous game, immediately blew for full-time, five minutes early but no-one was complaining.
A ‘team performance’ is a lazy cliche, but in this instance an accurate one. Such a high scoreline against a mixed ability but hard-working side with plenty of skill and experience was possible not because of individual actions but only because all 19 players on the day wanted it and worked for it.
H&B will take on Sussex One side Burgess Hill in the final at East Grinstead RFC on Saturday May 27.
H&B: Roche, Umpleby (Vincent), S. McManus, Adams (c), Piotrowski, Stern, F. McManus (James), Hanagarth (Crosby-Clarke), Steadman, Claughton (Elphick), Campbell, Ackerley, Waring, Stinson, Walker.
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