Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club was beaten at home to second-placed opposition on Saturday.
H&B conceded 21 points during the first half en route to a 29-5 reverse against Aylesford Bulls in London Three South East.
The match was preceded by an under-9 mini rugby game, after which the junior players formed a guard of honour to welcome their “big brothers” onto the pitch. Of the 18 H&B players participating in the game, at least 14 started their rugby careers in the club’s mini and junior sections.
Aylesford are a very strong outfit and are only four points off the top with a game in hand, against bottom-of-the-table Crawley.
H&B welcomed back skipper Joe Umpleby, but were missing Tom Waring. Sam Surridge came in on the wing.
The game kicked-off in cold and wet conditions, but both sides played fast, attacking and aggressive rugby. The main difference between the teams was the Bulls’ defence, which was stronger and more able to contain the H&B attack.
The visitors took the lead with a well-made try from the full-back, who converted his own score to open a seven point advantage.
H&B were reduced to 14 men when prop Anthony Roche was yellow carded for foul play. Aylesford made full use of their extra player and built up a 21-point lead before H&B got on the scoreboard.
H&B number eight John Hanagarth, who has played well throughout the season, picked up the ball as the forwards drove towards the line and crashed over.
During the interval, Surridge was replaced by Tom Jones, a New Zealander playing his first senior game for the club. He looks a good prospect and will be available for the remainder of the season’s tough fixtures.
H&B matched Aylesford throughout the second half. The game was a very physical encounter and the referee almost lost control as the players struggled for domination.
Aylesford built on their lead with a well-taken penalty and then completed the scoring with a very well-constructed try. The ball was passed through the back line with great skill and speed to put the winger clear.
Aylesford were worthy winners on the day and will surely be promoted at the end of the season.
Benefit from an ongoing discount on your Observer by joining our voucher membership scheme. Once you’ve subscribed, we’ll send you dated vouchers which can be exchanged for your paper at any news outlet. To save money on your Observer, simply click here (www.localsubsplus.co.uk)