Rye Rugby Club edged out local rivals Hastings & Bexhill 20-19 in a close-fought Sussex Shield final this afternoon (Sunday).
It was the first time that Sussex One club Rye have ever beaten Kent One neighbours Hastings & Bexhill and it gave the New Roaders their first piece of silverware in a decade.
On a mudbath of a pitch at Brighton RFC, H&B skipper Paul Sandeman missed a seventh minute penalty and Rye drew first blood little more than a minute later when a chip ahead was collected wide on the left and passed inside for Jamie Moore to scoot in under the posts. Percy Fitzgerald converted.
Sandeman then hit the upright with a penalty, but H&B levelled at 7-7 in the 13th minute when Rye dropped the ball close to their own line and Ben Campbell swooped for a try which Sandeman converted.
From the resulting kick-off, Rye won a penalty on the H&B 22 and Fitzgerald made no mistake to put his team 10-7 up. Their lead lasted just three minutes, though, as a Sandeman penalty made it 10-10.
H&B went down to 14 men for 10 minutes as Kit Claughton, of all people, was yellow carded, yet they still managed to take the lead for the first time at 13-10 courtesy of another Sandeman penalty in the 29th minute.
Three more points from the boot of Sandeman put H&B 16-10 to the good in the 35th minute only for Rye to go 17-16 ahead right on the half time whistle. Moore rounded-off a well worked backs move with a try out wide on the right which Fitzgerald superbly converted.
H&B conceded several penalties early in the second period and Fitzgerald kicked one of them in the 43rd minute to make it 20-16. H&B produced some good handling in the difficult conditions to earn a penalty on the Rye 22 in the 53rd minute which Sandeman kicked to bring them within a point once more.
Rye captain Matt Cooke was sin-binned two minutes later, but they managed to keep H&B out with Sandeman pulling a penalty left of the posts. Rye then enjoyed a prolonged period in H&B territory and after either side had a second player yellow carded, H&B produced a late rally but Rye stood firm.
See Friday’s Observers for reaction from the two camps and pictures.