With nine places separating the teams in the London Three South East table, Saturday’s visit from Old Dartfordians was never going to be an easy game for Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club.
The absence of talismanic skipper Jimmy Adams due to concussion and having to make late changes due to non-availability made it even more difficult, and contributed to a 56-8 defeat.
Jake Begg, a colt from last season, made a debut start for the first XV on an unusually calm November day at William Parker. A penalty on the 22 metre line gave Dartfordians the opening points.
Despite H&B defending with their usual passion, grit and determination, quick ball from a ruck was given out to the Darts’ backs, who ran at pace and shifted the ball along the line to score an unconverted try in the corner, 0-8.
This set the pattern for most of the first half with Darts running strongly in open play and using the rolling maul to good effect.
An injury to Dom Sewell saw Will Wheeler make his debut for the first XV. This meant H&B had four props on the field, two of them in the second row!
Only fantastic defence by Calvin Crosby-Clarke stopped what looked like a further score, but quick ball from the resulting scrum and a good move by the visitors’ backs broke through the defence for a converted try, 0-15.
A knock on gave the away team another chance and as a Darts player came in off his wing at pace, the ball was popped into the space created for another score, 0-22.
Tom Waring kicked a penalty to get H&B on the scoreboard, but Darts responded from the restart and raced in strongly from 40 metres, 3-27.
H&B kicked a penalty to the corner and started their own driving maul after gathering the resulting lineout, with Jacob McDonough going over in the corner, 8-27.
Relentless attacking paid off with another unconverted try for Darts and although only a last ditch tackle prevented Tim Sills scoring from the restart, the Darts’ back line ran hard and broke several tackles to score between the posts. An easy conversion made it 39-8 at half time.
After a further H&B reshuffle due to Begg’s injury, much of the second half was played between the two 22 metre lines. That said, H&B camped on the Darts’ line for several minutes, but were unable to get past their tight defence.
H&B’s best attack of the half came from a backs’ move with only a fine last ditch tackle stopping Sills from scoring.
Darts ran in another two tries with a third being stopped by a great one-on-one tackle from Bruce Steadman.
H&B: Roche, Foord-Paton, S. McManus, McDonough, Sewell, R. McManus, Piotrowski, Begg, Harbord, Campbell, Sills, Waring, Crosby-Clarke, Campbell, Haddock. Replacements: Wheeler, Nichols, White.
Rye RFC, meanwhile, suffered a 29-13 defeat away to Holbrook in a battle of the bottom two in Sussex One. The result means that Rye - who are still searching for their first win of the campaign - drop to the foot of the standings.