Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club is basking in the glory of clinching promotion.
H&B will be playing in London Three South East next season following a 41-22 play-off triumph away to Crawley last weekend.
Head coach Kevin Smith said: “We’re very happy that we’ve been promoted. It was the culmination of nine months of hard work from the club and the players. It was a tough game and I really got lost in the joy of winning.”
The final hurdle before promotion produced some of the best rugby Smith has seen from Kent One runners-up H&B all season, even after they had two players sinbinned early in the second half against a Crawley side which came second in Sussex One.
“The forwards were dominant in the scrum, and competitive in the lineout, but that wouldn’t matter if our backs weren’t functioning - and they were superb,” he continued.
Both Smith and the players are up for the challenge that comes with promotion, and the coach doesn’t intend to see his side head straight back down.
“As a coach I need to go away and look at where we need to strengthen the side, come up with new ideas and make subtle changes,” added Smith, who is coming to the end of his third season at the club. “We will be playing at a higher standard and we need to step up.”
Promoted sides often find the step up a difficult one, but several members of the H&B squad, including captain Jimmy Adams and the influential Claughton brothers, were at the club during its last stint in London Three South East between 2007 and 2010.
They will therefore have a good idea of what lies in store next term when H&B’s opponents will include the likes of Horsham, Dartfordians, Gillingham Anchorians, Bromley, Old Dunstonians and Uckfield among others.
Last weekend’s victory also exorcised a few demons from play-off defeats down the years. H&B lost no less than five promotion play-off matches in six years up to 2006 when they were a Sussex One club playing against Kent One opposition, often at home.
H&B switched from Sussex to Kent in 2011 believing the more competitive nature of Kent One would make them better prepared to make the step up in the event of winning promotion.
The season still hasn’t quite ended for H&B as they have a Sussex Shield final to look forward to against Sussex One champions Pulborough at Heathfield & Waldron RFC next Saturday (May 10). That match will be followed by the end-of-season club dinner.