Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club won 11-10 in a bruising thriller of a Sussex Shield semi-final away to Bognor on Saturday.
In the end, the difference between the sides in a ding-dong, end-to-end battle was probably H&B’s sheer determination, and experience of toughing out victory in vital matches, aided by greater team organisation.
A lineout steal by skipper Jimmy Adams, followed by a solid H&B scrum, saw the ball moved slickly through the backs’ hands for Tom Waring to dive over, conversion pushed wide, for a 0-5 lead.
A break by Kit Claughton, carried by Ben Campbell and Chris Stern to the 22, led to an H&B scrum on Bognor’s 22, then a penalty, kicked by Waring for an 0-8 lead midway through the first half.
H&B caught and drove their lineout, pick-and-gos taking them over the tryline, held up for a scrum five. For the third time in the half, Bognor’s nine skilfully disrupted H&B possession at the base of the scrum, preventing a score.
A home side touchline penalty closed the score to 3-8. H&B continued to attack, but conceded a penalty. From the ensuing lineout on halfway, Bognor broke. A missed tackle, and despite brave last-ditch scramble defence, Bognor tore in under the posts, converting for a 10-8 half time lead.
As the game became tenser and more physical, Adams and his fellow Bognor lock were sinbinned. H&B’s response was to drive their scrum 20 metres backwards; a half-break by Shane Hart-Jones on his first appearance, an H&B penalty, vitally kicked by Waring retook the lead for H&B.
Bognor sustained a red zone attack for many minutes, but were repulsed by H&B’s well-organised defence. With time running out, both sides ramped up already frantic efforts still further, but H&B held on for their first win at Bognor for a generation.