Hastings & Bexhill head coach Chris Brooks paid tribute to his players after the rugby club was crowned league champions.
H&B clinched the Kent One title with two games to spare on the back of a hard-fought 20-17 win at home to nearest rivals Old Williamsonians last weekend.
“It was just the way we wanted to do it,” said Brooks. “I can’t praise the players enough - everyone really but the skipper Jimmy Adams has been a tower of strength all season and Kit Claughton has prepared the backs superbly for each game.
“The dedication to training has been very good. We’ve had great numbers all season, even on those horrible January evenings.
“That mixed with some truly precociously naturally talented players and the fact that we’ve got a great ethos within the club on and off the field. The guys get on well together socially as well and they’re a real band of brothers.”
H&B were aiming to mount a challenge for promotion to London Three South East at the start of the season, but Brooks admits they’ve performed better than they expected.
H&B have won 19 of their 20 league matches so far (their only defeat was by one point away to Williamsonians), and possess the best points difference in the division (+504), most prolific attack (659 points scored) and meanest defence (155 points conceded).
“I think we have surpassed our expectations,” continued Brooks. “We were always going to be contenders, but I think we’ve done better than that.”
H&B were certainly made to work for their title-clinching victory. They led 15-3 at half time, but Williamsonians fought back with the aid of the wind in the second half and H&B had to show the steely defensive resolve which has underpinned their success to hold out.
“It was an awesome effort,” Brooks went on. “There were 18 very bruised, tired and very pleased players at the end of that game.
“It was a very good game between two quite evenly-matched sides. I never expected there to be a massive difference in the scoreline and it was almost a carbon copy of our visit to them.
“We played very, very expansively in the first half with the wind at our backs and Tim Sills scored a superb hat-trick of tries.
“The second half got a bit more turgid and a bit more of an arm wrestle up-front. We spent the last 10 minutes defending our line and it was full of character. To say that people were pleased at the end would be a slight under-statement.”
The result also meant H&B won all of their home league games this season, and although the job is now done, they will be keen to triumph in their remaining matches - away to second-bottom Sittingbourne this coming Saturday and fourth-placed HSBC on Saturday April 8.
“We can relax a bit now and enjoy those games, but we won’t be taking our foot off the gas,” added Brooks, whose team also has a Sussex Shield semi-final to look forward to on Saturday April 22.
H&B’s success this season has not just been confined to the first team. The seconds have won promotion from Sussex Division Three and are through to the Sussex Bowl final, while the thirds have reached the Sussex Salver decider.
See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!