An unusually rapid start set Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club on the way to a victory which moved it into the top three.
H&B were 20-0 up after only half-an-hour and seemed to be coasting to an easy victory on a dry but windy Saturday afternoon at Ark William Parker Academy.
But two yellow cards during a scrappy second half contributed to a New Ash Green side which played at a level well above its lowly Kent One position coming right back into the game.
The H&B pack started the game with plenty of fire. Robin Brereton replaced Joe Umpleby at hooker and Sam Haslem was in for Alex Waring, and both players were more than adequate replacements.
The first try was scored by Harry Walker. Some very good work by the H&B forwards fed the ball to their backs, who set up the young full-back for a good score after only four minutes. Bruce Steadman hit the post with his conversion attempt.
The whole team was playing really well and pressing the New Ash Green defence. The second and third tries came from Mark Piotrowski following more good work by the H&B pack.
Chris Stern, who worked well with Jimmy Adams and is a great addition to the lineout, scored the fourth try to earn the bonus point. Brereton’s throwing in was accurate and the pack set up a good ruck for the number six to pick up and crash over for a well-constructed try.
New Ash Green came back at the H&B defence and scored a try just before half time to make the score 20-5.
H&B played into the wind during a second half containing many mistakes and handling errors from both teams. The referee made some strange decisions and aided by some H&B indiscipline, New Ash Green started to come back into the game.
Steve McManus was sin-binned, which brought on Tom Pascall as front row replacement. Playing against 14 men, New Ash Green scored a try and a penalty to close the gap to seven points.
As McManus completed his 10 minutes on the sideline, Adams was yellow carded, which meant H&B played half of the second period a man down.
H&B were now finding life difficult, but number eight Sam Haslem showed good leadership skills and pulled the forwards together to make up for the player deficit.
As the game moved into the closing stages, H&B converted a penalty given for not releasing the ball in the tackle and then New Ash Green closed the gap with a penalty for offside.
This game was hard work for a variety of reasons. Certainly the wind was a factor and the referee with his interpretation of the laws added to the difficulties, but H&B’s indiscipline was a problem and against a stronger opposition could have led to a different result.
H&B head coach Chris Brooks said: “It didn’t feel like a bonus point win. I never felt like we were going to lose, but I think I came to the conclusion half way through that it wasn’t going to be the thrashing it looked like being to begin with.
“We started the game the way we talked about playing it, which was not to get involved in an arm wrestle with these guys. Then towards half time it just turned into a turgid forwards’ battle, which they were a bit better at.”
H&B are without a fixture over the Easter weekend.
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