Despite the early departure, 120-mile journey and a very shaky start, Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club never looked like losing their London & SE Junior Vase second round match on Saturday.
Kent One leaders H&B continued their unbeaten record this season with a good 28-18 away win against an Ellingham & Ringwood side which has lost just once in Hampshire One.
Head coach Chris Brooks said: “We didn’t really know what to expect, but we soon realised we had the upper hand.
“They’re a very good side and we had to defend hard - there were a couple of try-saving tackles put in. It was a good game and the guys did play out of their skin, no doubt about it.”
Handling errors from the usually reliable Joe Umpleby at the kick-off and then Bruce Steadman from the ensuing scrum put the visitors’ defence under immediate pressure. The inevitable penalty was awarded for coming in from the side and the home team took the lead.
From the restart H&B were quickly in the ascendancy and forced a penalty from the home defence for not releasing the ball on the floor. Steadman duly slotted it between the posts to make the score 3-3 after only three minutes play.
Ellingham played well, but they were no match for the strength of H&B, who hit the front when Steadman made no mistake with another penalty from in front of the posts.
H&B centre Chaz Ackerley finished a very good backs’ move with a try out on the left wing to make it 11-3.
The H&B forwards were in full control of the game and feeding excellent ball out to the backs, who were handling well and making a great deal of ground with their surging runs. A spear tackle stopped Harry Walker in his tracks, but resulted in a yellow card for Ellingham’s number seven.
Ellingham kicked their second penalty, but the H&B pack continued to dominate the tight play and number eight Mark Piotrowski touched down at the base of the scrum to make the half time score 6-16.
During the second half the referee awarded five yellow cards - two to Ellingham and three for H&B - all for repeated technical offences, coming in from the side and not releasing the ball on the floor being the most common.
The hosts’ goal kicker was on top form and Ellingham narrowed the gap to one point with three well-struck penalties.
H&B’s reaction was to play with even more spirit. Tom Waring increased the lead with a try at the end of an excellent move involving forwards and backs.
Mike Clifford replaced Dominic Sewell in the second row, Jacob McDonough came on at prop for Anthony Roche and Adam Baker took over from Jake Stinson on the wing, but not before Stinson had scored H&B’s fourth try.
The H&B backs were well-marshalled by Kit Claughton and their excellent handling put the winger away. Steadman converted to make the final score 18-28.
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