Hastings & Bexhill missed out on becoming the first team to inflict a league defeat on Sheppey this season despite a spirited second half rally.
H&B outscored the Kent One champions-elect 10-3 after the break, but were left to rue a tough opening quarter as they were beaten 24-13 at Ark William Parker Academy on Saturday.
Boosted by the return of Kit Claughton, Joe Umpleby and Harry Walker, H&B were hopeful of reversing the defeat inflicted upon them by Sheppey in October’s reverse fixture.
Sheppey were not party to this plan, however, and really hit the home defence hard in the opening minutes.
H&B had been reminded by head coach Chris Brooks of the danger and power of Sheppey’s big full-back, who burst through the home defence twice to score tries in the opening 10 minutes.
The second of these was converted with a good kick from out on the touchline and Sheppey’s lead was stretched to 15 points after only 20 minutes with a well-struck penalty from a long way out.
The home team raised its game, and started to match Sheppey in the scrum and the loose. Bruce Steadman slotted a good penalty awarded for offside, but Sheppey almost immediately restored their 15-point lead with a penalty given for a late tackle and another penalty on the stroke of half time made it 21-3.
The second half saw H&B in the ascendancy. They scored two unconverted tries and only conceded one more penalty.
With the forwards continuing to match their large Sheppey counterparts, Mark Piotrowski scored the first H&B try. A ruck formed as a result of a five-metre lineout ended with the number eight diving over.
Sheppey kicked another penalty, but H&B then hit them with the try of the game, scored by Chris Stern. Tim Sills made a fast break and fed the ball to Umpleby, who set up the classic ruck as he was tackled. The ball was hacked on and Stern outpaced the opposition to touch down.
Performance of the day came from full-back Harry Walker, who fielded the ball and tackled well, and launched attack after attack with great venom.
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