Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club picked up a losing bonus point away to top four opposition on its return to action at the weekend.
H&B took a point - for losing by seven points or fewer - against an Old Dunstonians team which had ended the unbeaten record of London Three South East leaders Aylesford Bulls the previous weekend.
H&B suffered an injury setback in the opening 30 seconds. The Dunstonians pack fielded H&B’s kick-off and Nick van Herpen was hurt in the ensuing ruck.
It was later revealed that his injury was probably caused by number eight John Hanagarth, who was following up in support of the front row. Jacob McDonough replaced the prop and made a good contribution.
In a tough and evenly-fought contest, Dunstonians opened the scoring with a converted try after 15 minutes and increased their lead with a well-struck penalty. Bruce Steadman reduced H&B’s deficit to 10-6 at half time with two well-taken penalty kicks of his own.
Although the packs were well matched, a Dunstonians centre could kick the ball more than 50 metres, putting the H&B defence under constant pressure.
H&B full-back Tom Waring replied with some good long kicks of his own to return the heat on the home defensive line, but Dunstonians increased their lead to 15-6 with an unconverted try in the corner.
Although Hanagarth was yellow carded for a high tackle, H&B didn’t weaken and responded with some good attacks of their own.
Steadman hit the post with a long penalty attempt and although the Dunstonians defence held on, it eventually succumbed to a well-taken try from Tim Sills. H&B’s backs were working well and fed the ball out for the winger to burst over the line to reduce the deficit to six points.
Calvin Crosby-Clarke almost scored another try for H&B immediately from the restart, but was held up only inches from the line. Despite the onslaught from the H&B pack, Dunstonians held on for a hard-fought win.
The game showed that sixth-placed H&B can match any opposition in the league home or away. The experience gained in this first season of London League rugby will strengthen the team for future campaigns.