Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club showed plenty of fighting spirit in a defeat away to top three opposition.
H&B recovered from 26-0 down after half-an-hour to lose 26-15 to Aylesford Bulls in London Three South East on Saturday.
With three fixtures to honour last weekend and 11 players on the injury list, coupled with work commitments, the club’s playing resources were stretched.
H&B did, however, welcome Tim Sills and Harry Walker back into the starting XV, and the bench contained two surprises.
Roger Roberts and Ben Davies, neither of whom had made senior appearances for at least four seasons, bolstered the ranks. Roberts and Davies coach the club’s under-9 squad, which played against Aylesford’s corresponding team prior to the first team game.
Aylesford started at a serious pace and soon had the H&B defence under mounting pressure.
Aylesford secured the four-try bonus point inside the opening third of the match. All of their tries were the result of forward domination; the lineouts worked well and their scrummage was solid.
Coupled with this control of the game, they had a large portion of luck when their inside centre intercepted a pass out from the base of the scrum to race through the H&B defence and score under the posts.
H&B heads did not drop, however, and they started to play with more confidence and determination. Bruce Steadman reduced the deficit with a well-struck penalty awarded for offside.
Soon after half time, skipper Joe Umpleby suffered a foot injury and was replaced by Davies at hooker. Sam Surridge came on for Chaz Ackerley, who sustained a leg injury.
H&B were playing with more belief, were making better decisions and the resulting momentum was transferred into points.
The first try came from Harry Walker. The ball was won at an attacking lineout and a crossfield backs’ move put the full-back in for a try under the posts. Steadman converted.
Nick van Herpen, who played a storming game in the back row, was replaced by Roberts and Walker crowned a good performance with his second try.
Davies won the ball to set up a fine backs’ move and Walker had the strength to burst through the defence and cross the line out on the wing.
Aylesford were under pressure and with less than 10 minutes to play they received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, but they held on for a very hard-fought victory.