Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club has reached the final of the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup for the first time in its history.
The London Three South East team triumphed 10-5 at home to London Two South East side Heathfield & Waldron in yesterday’s (Saturday’s) semi-final.
On a bitterly cold and windy afternoon, H&B fought hard for every ball and defended with resolve against a Heathfield side packed with big men.
See also: * Hastings & Bexhill versus Crowborough in pictures
* Hastings & Bexhill edged out by league leaders
* Hastings & Bexhill beat Lewes to move off bottom of table
Calvin Crosby-Clarke’s ankle injury and the late withdrawal of scrum-half Connor Shaw forced coach Ben Davies into changes of personnel and position.
Craig Burgess played at scrum-half, and showed good control and initiated some flowing moves.
Irakli Mogeladze, a student from Buckswood School, started on the bench, but made an impressive contribution when called to action.
Mogeladze is a strong runner and certainly not afraid of confrontation; hopefully there will be many more appearances from the Georgian youth international.
The first 35 minutes were very evenly fought. Heathfield gave H&B a severe test in every area of the game, but the determined home defence held strong.
Bruce Steadman was yellow carded in the opening minutes for preventing a potential try by handling the ball on the ground, yet Heathfield could not capitalise on their man advantage.
Tom Waring opened the scoring with a well-struck long range penalty kick and a converted try gave H&B a 10-0 half time advantage.
Burgess cleared H&B’s lines with an excellent box kick for Tim Sills to run on to. The winger left the visitors’ defence flat-footed as he sprinted over half the pitch to touch down under the posts. Waring duly added the conversion.
Heathfield upped their game in the second half and put the home defence under long periods of pressure. The visitors eventually scored a try following an uncharacteristic missed tackle in the midfield.
Davies rotated his squad well and made full use of his replacements. Nick Van Herpen and Josh James worked hard, Roger Roberts made many crucial tackles and Frazer McManus dominated the forward battle.
H&B skipper Joe Umpleby had to leave the pitch in a rather groggy state and was replaced by Davies at hooker, but these changes did not affect H&B’s grip on the game and they ran out worthy winners of a very hard cup tie.
H&B will return to league action next Saturday away to Vigo, a side they should have beaten when they played them at home in October.