Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club scored a last gasp converted try to clinch a precious home victory on Saturday.
Bruce Steadman scored the try and kicked the ensuing conversion as H&B boosted their London Three South East survival prospects with a 15-13 win against third-placed Old Dunstonians.
The day started with club president Roy Wake hosting a lunch for more than 70 people, including representatives from club sponsors Greene King, The Horse and Groom, HPS, Cheesmurs, GAP Hire Solutions and Trade Paints.
During the meal a charity raffle and auction raised more than £400 for the RFU Injured Players Fund. After lunch the club’s under-10s gave a demonstration of their mini rugby skills and then formed a guard of honour as the senior teams took to the field.
H&B skipper Joe Umpleby was unavailable and the inspirational Jimmy Adams was sidelined by a knee problem, but their replacements, Robin Brereton and Calvin Crosby-Clarke, both had very good games.
The first half was very hard fought with both teams struggling to gain superiority. H&B took the lead with a well-struck penalty from captain-for-the-day Steadman, but Dunstonians replied with a penalty of their own and the half time score was 3-3.
The visitors grasped the initiative with decisive play from their forwards. The fly-half was a good tactical kicker and used the wind to good effect, enabling his team to drive forward.
H&B defended well and put in some ferocious tackles, but conceded a well-executed try on the left wing, which was converted by a great kick, to give ODs a 10-3 lead.
Anthony Roche was replaced at loosehead prop by Ben Davies, whose second appearance of the season was to be very short-lived. After only two minutes on the pitch, Davies suffered a nasty finger injury which needed hospital treatment and Roche had to be recalled to the fray.
Dunstonians extended their lead to 13-3 with another successful penalty kick.
Chris Stern continued his comeback after injury, coming on for Jack James in the back row, and Ryan Foord replaced Dan Suggitt in the backs.
Number eight John Hanagarth made a good break from the scrum and passed the ball inside to Crosby-Clarke, who crossed the line to score an excellent forwards’ try, 8-13.
H&B dominated the last quarter of the game and their efforts were rewarded in the dying seconds.
Steadman saw his opportunity and made a dummy move from a five-metre penalty, crashing over the line to bring the scores level. The conversion was to be the last action of the game, and Steadman’s well-struck kick sailed over the bar to seal the win.
This was Steadman’s last appearance of the season as he and his new wife Jen head off on an extended honeymoon in Australasia.
Standings (all played 18 matches): 1 Aylesford Bulls 77pts. 2 Thanet Wanderers 74, 3 Old Dunstonians 59, 4 Bromley 53, 5 Crowborough 47, 6 Old Williamsonians 46, 7 Lewes 45, 8 HASTINGS & BEXHILL 44, 9 Park House 43, 10 Folkestone 37, 11 Sheppey 8, 12 Crawley -3.
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