Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club picked up a very welcome win in its final game before the festive break.
H&B ended a run of three consecutive London Three South East defeats by seven points or less with a 24-10 victory at home to Folkestone on Saturday.
Chris Brooks’ team was badly hit by late withdrawals because of illness and several players turned out despite feeling well below par. H&B worked together, however, to beat a physical and well-organised Folkestone side.
From the kick-off H&B immediately put the visitors’ defence under pressure. Jacob McDonough crashed over the line following a five-metre scrum to score the opening try after only four minutes. Bruce Steadman increased the lead to 7-0 with a well-struck conversion.
The next half-an-hour saw two well-matched sides struggling for superiority. Folkestone gradually built the pressure on the home defence and eventually managed to cross the line for a very hard-worked try under the posts. The ensuing conversion brought the scores level.
H&B hit back with some pressure of their own and Anthony Roche scored a pushover try on the stroke of half time, which Steadman converted, giving the home side a 14-7 advantage.
Calvin Crosby-Clarke was exchanged for Dominic Sewell in the second row and the game followed the same pattern of intensive struggle after the turnaround.
H&B centre Chaz Ackerley was the victim of a foul tackle from his opposite number, who was yellow carded for tackling without using his arms. From the ensuing penalty, Steadman struck a huge kick from the 10-metre line to increase H&B’s lead to 17-7.
Folkestone replied with a penalty of their own after Steve McManus, on for McDonough, was adjudged to have killed the ball in the ruck.
H&B’s pack used its strength well and played with increasing confidence and domination, winning more ball and setting the backs free to build penetrating attacks.
Tom Waring, who had a solid game in the centre, received the ball on the Folkestone 22 and burst through the Folkestone defence to score under the posts, giving Steadman the easiest of conversions for the final points of the day.
H&B deserved their win and can look forward to 2018 with optimism. The touchline pundits reckoned 40 points would be enough to avoid relegation and after 12 of the 22 matches, they already have 30.