Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club will end the season in a relegation position despite a valiant effort to beat the drop.
H&B will finish second-from-bottom of London Three South East despite giving their all throughout the campaign, winning six matches and drawing one.
The two bonus points achieved in a very hard-fought 31-24 final game defeat away to second-placed Beccehamian on Saturday were not enough to save H&B from Kent League rugby next season.
See also: * Hastings & Bexhill’s vital victory in pictures
* Hastings & Bexhill triumph in must-win clash
* District team to play national cup final at Stoke City
With only Calvin Crosby-Clarke missing from his first choice squad, H&B coach Ben Davies put out a strong side for this vital fixture.
Fielding a strong squad of quality players, Beccehamian soon took control of the game. Three tries and two conversions in the first half-hour put them into a commanding position.
H&B hit back with two good tries of their own. The first came from winger Tim Sills, who gathered the ball more than 50 metres out and surged through the home defence to touch down under the posts. Tom Waring slotted the straightforward conversion.
Roger Roberts, one of the hardest working players on the pitch, scored the second. The H&B pack was taking control of the game and this domination of tight play allowed the versatile flanker to crash over the line to reduce the deficit to seven points.
The home side came back with a try out wide, which was converted with a great kick, to make the half time score 26-12.
Nick Van Herpen had replaced Dominic Sewell, who was suffering from a recurring shoulder injury, and Roberts moved to second row. The change made no difference to H&B’s determined effort.
Adam Parkhouse capitalised on great work from Tom Vincent and Isaac Wales to score an excellent try for Bruce Steadman to convert.
H&B were within touching distance of a great win when right wing Sam Surridge touched down following a fantastic crossfield move of flowing rugby, making it 26-24 with 10 minutes to play.
A tough penalty kick, which would have put H&B into the lead, narrowly missed the target.
Despite colossal tackles in defence from Archie Ridpath, Frazer McManus and Jake Stinson, the home side sealed their victory with one more score of their own.
With the league campaign complete, coach Davies has three weeks to hone his squad before the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup final against London Two club Horsham at East Grinstead RFC on Saturday April 27. It will be H&B’s first ever appearance in the final of this prestigious competition.
London Three South East bottom four (played-points): 8 Old Williamsonians 19-45, 9 Bromley 19-39, 10 Hastings & Bexhill 20-38, 11 Lewes 19-25.