Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club hurdled the banana skin that visits to Beccehamian have been in the past and kicked-off the second part of their season with a dominant 29-10 bonus point win, stretching their lead in Kent One to seven points.
A confident and physically assertive - if somewhat outweighed - Beccs side were overpowered by H&B’s ability to move the ball wide accurately and at pace, their dominant set scrum, and an aggressive defensive organisation that rarely gave anything away.
Neither side showed the familiar post-break signs of excessive Christmas pudding; instead of hitting the ground gasping, both sides went into attack mode from the whistle.
The first quarter was evenly contested, if anything Beccs getting the better of the referee’s runic, guess-what-I’ve-blown-the-whistle-for-because-I’m-not-going-to-signal, decisions, with a couple of penalties.
From the second of these, with Mark Piotrowski blood-binned and temporarily replaced by Anthony Roche, Beccs kicked for the corner, and with a series of pick and goes, barreled over for a try, the conversion hitting the post, 5-0.
Playing uphill on Beccs’ newly refurbished main pitch, H&B got close to a swift equaliser: a strong scrum, quick penalty and assured handling ending with Tim Sills well tackled just short of the line.
But H&B were beginning to turn the screw; a second Beccs penalty kicked to the corner was powerfully forced back by H&B and Beccs’ attacks were all dealt with by H&B’s confident defence.
From an H&B scrum the ball was moved beautifully through the backs’ hands for Harry Walker to run in for an equalising try, Bruce Steadman’s conversion bouncing off the post, 5-5.
H&B won successive penalties from the restart and after Jimmy Adams caught the ball at a lineout, the resultant maul was touched down by Paul Sandeman, Steadman was just short with the conversion, 5-10.
With minutes to half time, great H&B defending produced a turnover, Walker broke with a trademark mazy run to the 10-metre line and Tim Sills evaded defenders to belt in under the posts, Steadman converting, for a half time score of 5-17.
After half time H&B incurred a spate of unusual penalties until a smart attacking chip by Steadman was secured by Walker, then moved smoothly along the fast-moving line, for Sills to score his second - and the bonus point - try in the opposite corner, conversion missed, 5-22.
With 20 minutes to go, Steve McManus and his opposite number were yellow-carded for a front row exchange of New Year greetings.
Beccs’ second good period of the game followed, with several assaults on H&B’s line well-defended, before the hosts got their reward with an unconverted try in the corner, 10-22 (the ball dropped in the tackle, the referee 20 metres away and unsighted - but that’s rugby!).
Ben Petty having celebrated his return from injury with a yellow card for a knock forward, H&B’s 13 men shrugged off the setback to remind Beccs who was boss straight away.
From a well-taken lineout the ball was moved slickly down the backline for Sills to run in his hat-trick in the corner, well-converted by Steadman, for what proved to be the final score, 10-29.
H&B: Vincent (Roche), Umpleby, S. McManus, Adams (c), Piotrowski, F. McManus, Sandeman, Hanagarth, Parry, Steadman, Campbell (Stinson), Claughton (Petty), Ackerley, Sills, Walker.
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