Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club needed a late converted try to win 19-12 away to bottom-of-the-table New Ash Green on Saturday.
Chaz Ackerley scored in the nick of time to give H&B a fourth straight victory in all competitions against a New Ash Green side which has lost all of its nine Kent One matches so far this season.
H&B travelled to their north Kent opponents with a team containing several changes from the previous weekend’s cup win against Petersfield.
Business commitments and injury gave some squad members the opportunity to make the starting line-up and impress the coaching staff.
The Kent One game started with H&B having the benefit of the very blustery conditions, but they were unable to breach the sturdy New Ash Green defence.
The balance of play was very even and the home team’s performance certainly belied its lowly league position. New Ash Green went into the lead after 20 minutes with an unconverted try on the right.
H&B replied almost immediately with fly-half Bruce Steadman setting up a fine backs move which ended with Harry Walker going over for a try. Walker had an excellent game as replacement full-back, fielding the ball well and making several vital tackles.
Chris Stern put H&B ahead with a fine try near to the New Ash Green line. Steadman produced an excellent positional kick to touch and from the defensive lineout, Stern won the ball and was able to cross the line. Steadman added the conversion to give H&B a 12-5 lead at half time.
The second half was a real war of attrition. New Ash Green buffeted the visitors’ line, but excellent defensive work; especially from Steve McManus and Jack James, kept them at bay.
H&B replacements Alex Waring, John Hanagarth and Dan Elphick made an excellent contribution to the team’s efforts, but New Ash Green equalised in the 70th minute. A more than fortunate chargedown of a defensive clearance allowed the winger to score in the corner and the ensuing conversion was an especially good kick in the extremely windy conditions.
The H&B forwards mounted attack after attack and the home defence conceded several penalties, but their very large front row kept H&B at bay. Mark Piotrowski, who had an excellent game at number eight, suffered an injury to his ankle, forcing another reorganisation of the pack.
Just as H&B’s travelling support were settling for the draw, Ackerley scored a great match-winning try.
Walker made a good run out to the left and then passed the ball inside for the centre to cross the line. Steadman converted with a kick that had to be retaken because the home defence encroached on the kicker.
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