Table-topping H&B enjoying the high life
The season may be very much in its infancy, but Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club is relishing being top of London Three South East for the first time.
Newly-promoted H&B have achieved bonus point victories in their opening two games to top a division in which most other clubs have played only once.
H&B head coach Chris Brooks said: “I’ve every confidence in the lads and they’re playing very well. If I was to say spirits are high, it might be a little bit of an under-statement.”
For any promoted club at any level in any sport, making a good start is crucial to build confidence and create a sense of belonging at the next level up, and H&B have done just that.
“It’s the ideal start really,” continued Brooks. “I always knew we had the wins in us, but they were two emphatic wins and we got the four-try bonus point in each game.
“We’ve set the bar very high and we’ve got to stick with it. There are tougher games to come and there will be some lows to come as well. It’s how you handle the lows that will get you through the season.”
H&B followed up a 51-22 win at home to Bromley a fortnight ago with a 27-16 victory at home to Park House last weekend.
“I think we deserved it,” Brooks went on. “It was a very well-fought game and it was pretty even all the way through.
“At the end of the day I think it came down to the determination of the lads and the fitness. We pretty much outlasted them in all departments.
“I was very pleased with the scrummaging. We’re a lightweight pack at the best of times and were missing a couple of key players, but didn’t get shoved round the park at all and Park House are known for having a heavy pack.
“Tries are coming from new patterns of play we’ve been practising as well. It’s good to see the coaching techniques, especially from the backs, are really paying dividends. The guys are using the top two inches to win games.”
H&B have achieved their victories so far without being at full strength. Influential forwards Joe Umpleby, Anthony Roche and Jimmy Adams all missed the Park House game, but Chris Pillow came in and produced a strong performance, and Mike Clifford scored the match-clinching try.
“We’ve had a few selection challenges, but we’ve got that strength in depth now,” added Brooks, who expects to welcome back Roche and Adams for the first away fixture of the season, against Folkestone today (Saturday). Steve McManus is doubtful with a nagging back injury and new captain Umpleby is likely to be out for another couple of weeks with a broken nose.
“We are a team that travels well,” said Brooks. “An awful lot of clubs at our level have home and away teams if you like, but our home and away team is the same team on the whole. We always have a coach as well so the players can travel together.
“Folkestone away is never an easy fixture, but we’ll play against what we find and if we get a good day at the office, the win is not beyond us.”
Folkestone, incidentally, lost their opening fixture 33-22 away to Aylesford Bulls last weekend.