In sport we say ‘there is no such thing as a bad win’. Well this was a good loss for Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club.
Once again H&B showed that they can match the best in London Three South East as they were edged out 22-19 at home to second-placed Thanet Wanderers on Saturday.
Fielding a side with three changes of personnel and four positional alterations, H&B came from 19-0 down to lose by just three points, thereby achieving a losing bonus point.
Thanet’s pack was probably a stone per man heavier than H&B’s and the whole team was very well-drilled.
They took command of the match with three well-constructed first half tries, two of which were converted. Their handling was slick and they put the H&B defence under continuous pressure.
During the interval, H&B coach Chris Brooks swapped teenage hopeful Leon Driver for the more experienced Calvin Crosby-Clarke, which meant a major reorganisation of the backs.
The emergency half-back combination of Stash Maltby, promoted because of the late withdrawal of Eliot Parry with a shoulder injury, and Dan Suggitt got into their stride. Maltby played with confidence and has a terrific pass to get the backs moving.
Tim Sills opened H&B’s account with a hard-earned try. Crosby-Clarke made an excellent tackle in the midfield, won the ball and set up the back line to pass the ball out to the speedy winger.
That was all the opportunity Sills needed to reduce the deficit and Waring added the conversion with a well-struck kick.
Thanet were reduced to 14 men after their prop was yellow carded and H&B immediately pressed home their numerical advantage.
Crosby-Clarke received the ball from the scrum and crashed through the defence to score under the posts, although Waring hit the post with the conversion.
Thanet hit back with a very well-struck penalty awarded for offside to lead 22-12 and effectively sew up victory.
H&B earned their bonus point, however, with a try right at the end. Waring redeemed himself for his earlier error with a huge kick downfield, which Sills chased down and left the visitors’ defence in his wake to cross the line for his second try of the day. Waring converted with an excellent kick.
H&B captain Joe Umpleby and coach Brooks praised their squad for the way in which they all stepped up to make a very good Thanet team work so hard for a narrow victory.