Hastings & Bexhill launched their Kent One league campaign with a narrow 13-10 win away to Old Gravesendians on Saturday.
They had to battle the elements, their hosts’ rollercoaster pitch and a hard-working OGs side revitalised by a new coach and fresh faces, to earn their victory.
Playing down the hill in the first half, H&B were up against it in the early part of the game, but H&B’s mauling game was gradually starting to work well, and it was a well-controlled drive to the line that gave Jimmy Adams a touchdown, converted by Tom Waring, for a 7-0 lead which was carried into half time.
A second try looked on when a strong forwards drive to OGs’ 22 was followed by a Kit Claughton break to the five metre line. But a fumble on the line saw the opportunity vanish. Some great running by the dynamic Eliot Parry led to a penalty, well converted by Waring, for a 10-0 lead.
Just as it was beginning to look as though H&B finally had the measure of OGs, who had not seriously threatened their line all game, mini-disaster struck. A 22 metre clearance kick was skilfully charged down by an OGs player, who chased it up and touched down, the conversion closing the gap to three points.
Confidence revived, OGs upped their game a notch and won another penalty in H&B’s half, which they converted well to level the scores. It looked ominous.
But with 15 minutes left, H&B showed their campaigning mettle.
Forwards and backs combined to mount a series of attacks down the middle and on the flanks. OGs’ defence and fitness held up, but finally they conceded a kickable penalty. Waring converted it, and H&B were ahead again with only minutes to play.
Experience of winning now told, the older heads in H&B’s ranks ensuring possession was kept, and a final long penalty attempt at goal was rejected in favour of a kick to touch, the lineout confidently won - and the game with it.
Rye Rugby Club, meanwhile, began its Sussex One campaign with a 15-0 reverse away to Crowborough seconds.