Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club won 14-3 at home to Eastbourne a day that fully justified rugby league’s decision to switch to a summer sport.
A howling wind, pelting rain, a treacly pitch, tomato-pip ball, frozen hands and waterlogged boots - only the quality of the William Parker playing surface and drainage system prevented this Sussex Shield quarter-final between old enemies who had not met in earnest for many years being called-off.
In the event, while the visitors succumbed to the near-impossibility of playing any sort of constructive rugby, H&B rose above the conditions supremely well, and especially in the first half attempted to play an aquatic version of their powerful off-loading game - with impressive success.
Both sides were missing some players, but throughout H&B looked as if they wanted to be out there, wanted to win, wanted to score tries, while Eastbourne always looked like a team bravely trying to hang on. Key to it all was H&B’s pack, led from the front as usual by skipper Jimmy Adams.
The first real opportunity came with an H&B penalty kick 15 minutes into the game, which fell short. H&B pushed back and dispossessed an Eastbourne scrum moments later. The first two stabs at scoring were well-defended, but John Hanagarth could not be stopped, diving over for a try well-converted in awful conditions by Tom Waring, 7-0.
Even with three-quarters of the game remaining, this had the look of a winning score. But five minutes before half time, a misskick by H&B was pounced on by Eastbourne, who won a couple of penalties at the breakdown, the second in front of the posts which they converted, 7-3.
H&B responded immediately with some great running and handling given the impossible conditions. Eastbourne knocked on behind their line, and from an H&B scrum five, Hanagarth picked up, spun out of two tackles, and dotted down for his second try, again well-converted by Waring, for a half time lead of 14-3.
H&B continued in the second half where they left off in the first - forcing Eastbourne onto the back foot and into their own half. The visitors continued to tackle valiantly, but looked decreasingly ambitious with ball in hand.