H&B and Rye set for Shield final

Hastings & Bexhill and Rye will contest the Sussex Shield final at Brighton RFC this afternoon
Hastings & Bexhill and Rye will contest the Sussex Shield final at Brighton RFC this afternoon

Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club head coach Kevin Smith has laughed off the ‘underdogs’ tag that Rye have applied to themselves going into the Sussex Shield final today (Sunday).

Rye have never beaten H&B, but Smith is fully aware of the threat their neighbours pose after a decent season which sees them lying third in the Sussex One table.

“On the day, anything can happen,” Smith insisted. “I don’t buy that ‘underdog’ label at all. On Sunday it’s 15 men versus 15 men and you just don’t know how it might play out.

“They could get a decision go their way or might have the rub of the green. They’re no mugs, they’ve had a good season in Sussex One and it’s up to us to make sure we play well enough to get the win.”

H&B go into the final off the back of a heavy loss at Kent One leaders Dartfordians last weekend, while their opponents have been a little starved of action lately due to the failure of several opposing teams to fulfil fixtures.

Whereas H&B won the competition last season, Rye will be playing in their first final since their Sussex Plate appearance in 2003 when they beat Shoreham to complete a league and cup double having already won Sussex Two.

With this in mind, Rye chairman Tony Pierce has stated his team has nothing to lose going into the game and insists it will be a memorable occasion for the club whatever the result.

“They’re a bigger club, more established, and with more resources,” Pierce said. “They have a bigger catchment area to get players from too. But they’re not unbeatable from our point of view, we just have to have the belief.”

“The weather can be a great equaliser. It can make everyone play to a more similar level and hopefully a cold, boggy pitch can help rather than hinder. It’s notoriously difficult to predict one-off games like this, but I have every faith we can do it. Whatever happens, Rye Rugby Club will thoroughly enjoy the day.”

The match will take place at Brighton RFC with a 2.30pm kick-off.