The story of Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club’s season has been one of very hard work that has unfortunately not produced the victories the effort deserved.
Saturday’s game reflected this situation to a tee as H&B matched London Three South East leaders Crowborough in every area of the game only to be beaten 24-11.
H&B’s squad showed only one change from the team which beat Lewes a fortnight previously; Nick Van Herpen came in to the front row for Steve McManus, who has an injured elbow.
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The opening exchanges were evenly fought with H&B defending hard. Crowborough had all the possession, but it was 20 minutes before they opened the scoring with an unconverted try.
The home side equalised with a well-taken try from Frazer McManus. The ball was won at the lineout and forward pressure carried the number eight over the line. The very windy conditions made kicking something of a lottery and Tom Waring failed with his conversion attempt.
Calvin Crosby-Clarke; who had played well, twisted his ankle and was replaced by Dominic Sewell in the second row.
H&B maintained their pressure on the visitors’ defence and won a penalty for offside. Bruce Steadman struck the ball cleanly and it sailed over the bar to give H&B an 8-5 lead at half time.
Crowborough’s number eight was one of their best players and he crowned a good performance with a well-taken try under the posts. The subsequent conversion put the visitors 12-8 up.
Sewell injured his knee and had to leave the pitch, prompting coach Ben Davies into major reorganisation. Jacob McDonough came back to the front row and Van Herpen moved to the wing forwards.
These changes did not weaken the H&B effort and a well-taken penalty from Waring reduced the deficit to one point.
Roger Roberts was harshly yellow carded for killing the ball at a quickly taken penalty move. Despite a long period of defending on the five-metre line, Crowborough scored a converted try to extend their lead to 19-11.
Jake Stinson made way for Stash Maltby on the wing and H&B continued to press, but could not add to their score.
As the final whistle was about to be blown, Crowborough scored an unconverted try to clinch a bonus point victory, leaving H&B disappointed but not disgraced.
H&B will entertain Heathfield & Waldron, who are having a torrid season in London Two South East, in a Sussex Shield semi-final this coming Saturday. Kick-off at Ark William Parker Academy is 1.30pm.