Promoted H&B aiming for more than just survival

Chris Stern in possession during H&B's final league fixture of last season, away to HSBC. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker
Chris Stern in possession during H&B's final league fixture of last season, away to HSBC. Picture courtesy Nigel Baker

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club is aiming to consolidate its promotion with a mid-table finish during the 2017/18 season.

H&B - the 2016/17 Kent One champions - will begin life in London Three South East with a home game against Bromley tomorrow (Saturday). Kick-off at Ark William Parker Academy is 3pm.

Asked about the club’s aims for the season, H&B head coach Chris Brooks said: “Comfortable consolidation. We don’t want to go in with the target of just avoiding relegation.

“I’m targeting, fairly optimistically, a mid-table finish and after the first few games we’ll see how realistic that is.”

H&B have found the step up from Kent One to London Three South East difficult in the past, but Brooks is hopeful the current squad will be more competitive.

“It’s all about becoming comfortable in that level of company,” continued Brooks. “In the past we’ve never really settled at the standard we’ve needed to, but I’m confident we’re in a better position this time.

“The team spirit’s as good as it’s ever been. We established that level of spirit last season and it’s certainly carried on through the pre-season. The guys are looking forward to it.”

H&B have a new skipper this season in hooker Joe Umpleby, who has taken over the reins from influential second row Jimmy Adams. Steve McManus and Bruce Steadman have taken on some coaching responsibilities.

Brooks said there won’t be a massive change to the playing squad this term, although Adam Baker and Harry Walker are off to university, and a few youngsters are likely to come up from the colts’ team.

H&B won’t be at full strength, though, against a Bromley side which played two levels above them in London Two South East last season.

“We’ve got a real test coming up on Saturday,” said Brooks. “We’re in at the deep end really. We’re not going to be able to put out our strongest XV, but it’s a fairly strong team with a good balance of old heads and youngsters.

“We’ve been doing quite a lot of preparation and the (training) sessions have been well-attended. We’ve been working on expanding our already expansive game, and coming up with a few new moves and patterns of play.”

H&B have contested a couple of warm-up matches, convincingly beating Seaford a fortnight ago prior to an honorable 17-17 draw against Eastbourne in a match split into four quarters last weekend.