Depleted H&B suffer another narrow defeat

Anthony Roche was among the tryscorers for Hastings & Bexhill against Lewes on Saturday.
Anthony Roche was among the tryscorers for Hastings & Bexhill against Lewes on Saturday.

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club picked up two more bonus points from a 31-24 defeat away to Lewes on Saturday.

H&B gained a losing bonus point for being beaten by seven points or fewer and another for scoring four tries in this London Three South East derby.

But an erratic performance from a hastily rearranged squad, especially in the back division, caused H&B to lose to a well-drilled Lewes side.

Work commitments, long term injuries and the late withdrawal of Eliot Parry with a fractured finger caused H&B coach Chris Brooks to reorganise his team for the short journey west.

Despite H&B setting the early pace with some promising work from John Hanagarth, Lewes went into the lead with two well-taken tries. The Lewes fly-half was a class act and his penetrating kicks caused havoc for H&B’s defence throughout the game.

Harry Walker and Hanagarth combined well for the latter to score H&B’s first try, which was converted by Bruce Steadman. Lewes hit back with another converted try to go in at half time 19-7 ahead.

During the interval Brooks replaced Jacob McDonough and Calvin Crosby-Clarke with the fit-again Steve McManus and Mark Piotrowski. Almost immediately McManus scored a try in the corner following good work from the H&B pack.

Lewes went down to 14 men when their winger was yellow carded for dissent. H&B were unable to take advantage of their extra man, however, and the home side scored two more tries, one of them converted, in his absence.

Another reorganisation from Brooks brought Walker in from the wing to scrum-half and Ryan Foord on in place of James Morris, who had injured his ankle. This change was the catalyst for H&B’s most productive period of the game.

The backs were better balanced, and they began producing good ball and making effective use of the forwards’ hard-gained ground. Tony Roche scored a well-worked try from the sustained forward pressure, which Steadman converted.

Crosby-Clarke returned to the fray when Hanagarth left the pitch with an injured shoulder. The H&B forwards continued to dominate and Piotrowski crossed the line for the final score of the day.

The enforced changes undoubtedly did not help H&B’s cause, but you can only play with what you have on the day and Lewes won because their backs played better than H&B’s. It is the mark of the game that all of H&B’s tries were scored by forwards.