Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club was knocked off the top of the Kent One table following a 27-19 loss away to fellow high-flyers Cranbrook on Saturday.
The sunny conditions and near-perfect pitch suited the hosts’ playing style. Cranbrook won a penalty for hands-in, 3-0 up after four minutes, and H&B had touched the ball just once.The visitors won a penalty and a chance to draw level, but the kick was missed.
Cranbrook conceded five successive penalties at the maul and defending ball down the line before H&B drove a scrum five inexorably over the line for Mark Piotrowski to fall on the ball, Tom Waring converting for a brief 3-7 lead.
From the restart, Cranbrook knocked the ball forward in the air, won it back, dropped it, and in the untidy confusion a player looped behind the pack and tore down the undefended wing for the softest of tries to retake the lead, 10-7.
Three minutes later a powerful attack swept the ball confidently through hands, and despite some big tackling, their quick forwards joined the line and created an overlap to score a second try in the same corner, the conversion bouncing over off the bar, 17-7.
From a turned over lineout, Cranbrook’s pinpoint passing and clever timing drew the tackles until there were no defenders left, for a good try in the right-hand corner, 22-7.
A powerful, diagonal break by Ben Campbell and a perfectly-timed pass to Jimmy Adams, who put Chris Stern in for a well-worked try, converted by Waring, 22-14.
In the second half, neither side was helped by a slew of cards from an anxious referee under assessment - both teams down to 13 men at stages of a fairly clean and well-disciplined game, and H&B losing Jason Holewell to a red.
H&B missed a penalty, then a flurry of sinbinnings, a sustained H&B assault in Cranbrook’s half, and a pushover try touched down by Holewell, closed the score to 22-19.
Then Cranbrook’s 13 struck with a brilliant individual try, bouncing one defender, spinning out of a tackle, stepping in under the posts for the decisive bonus try that summed up an ultimately well-deserved win.
Standings (all played nine matches): 1 Park House 36pts, 2 Cranbrook 34, 3 HASTINGS & BEXHILL 32, 4 Southwark Lancers 30, 5 Vigo 26, 6 Old Williamsonians 22, 7 Old Gravesendians 22, 8 HSBC 17, 9 King’s College Hospital 13, 10 Sittingbourne 13, 11 Foots Cray 7, 12 Shooters Hill 7.