Hastings & Bexhill triumph in must-win clash

Hastings & Bexhill scrap for possession during their victory at home to Park House. Picture by Justin Lycett
Hastings & Bexhill scrap for possession during their victory at home to Park House. Picture by Justin Lycett

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club came out on top in a must-win game in its battle against relegation.

A hard-fought, but well-deserved 24-17 victory at home to in-form Park House on Saturday lifted H&B out of London Three South East’s bottom two.

Park House proved very tough opponents, but resolute defensive work and well-taken tries forged this vital win at a windswept Ark William Parker Academy.

See also: * Hastings & Bexhill survival hopes hit by defeat
* Hastings & Bexhill win again to boost bid to beat the drop
* Hastings & Bexhill secure vital victory in quest for survival
* Hastings & Bexhill denied draw after dramatic finale

The rearrangement of this fixture caused availability problems for coach Ben Davies, but the whole squad raised their game to see H&B home.

The front row of Chris Geary, Jacob McDonough and Steve McManus, with Josh Clarke as replacement, had the hardest job of the day up against some very big men.

Sam Surridge put in an impressive shift on the wing and Jake Stinson gave another strong performance at full-back. Dominic Sewell and Ryan Foord, both coming back from injury, produced useful cameo roles form the bench.

In the eyes of the home faithful, who braved horrendous conditions on the touchline, Park House opened the scoring with a controversial try.

The referee waved play on after a mishandling in the H&B defence presented the ball to the Park House centre for a fortunate touchdown.

Playing with the wind, the visitors pressed the home defence. Kicking was not an option and the H&B backs worked hard to defend their line.

On a rare sortie into the Park House 22, the H&B pack drove the ball forward to present scrum-half Connor Shaw with a well-worked try. The ensuing conversion attempt by Tom Waring blew back over his head in the violently gusting wind.

The interval came with the scores level, but H&B were in the ascendancy and hit Park House with two excellent tries after the turnaround.

Frazer McManus made a strong break and passed the ball inside for Isaac Wales to crash over the line under the posts. Bruce Steadman converted in the very difficult conditions.

Flying winger Tim Sills received the ball from the scrum and burst through the visitors’ defence to stretch the hosts’ lead to 12 points.

Park House were not beaten and battered the H&B XV for a long period of the second half, but strong tackles and hard work from the father and son combination of Steve and Frazer McManus kept them at bay for the most part.

The Park House pressure eventually paid off with a very hard-worked try to reduce their deficit.

Sills crowned a great H&B team performance, however, with an outstanding bonus point-clinching try. Gathering the ball from a ruck, he flat-footed the opposition and sprinted over from 80 metres to touch down under the posts for Waring to convert.

The visitors came back with a try of their own, but despite being reduced to 13 men for the closing minutes of the game, H&B held on for a very hard-earned win.

H&B have one game left, away to second-placed Beccehamian, on Saturday March 30. Bromley, who H&B leapfrogged on Saturday, have two matches remaining, both at home to tough opposition, so the relegation battle will not be settled until the last day of the season on Saturday April 6.

London Three South East bottom five (played-points): 7th Old Williamsonians 17-40, 8th Park House 18-38, 9th HASTINGS & BEXHILL 19-36, 10th Bromley 18-34, 11th Lewes 17-25.