Cliffe Crusaders 17,
Hastings & Bexhill 28
By Peter Knight
This Kent League and Cup double-header encounter, played in a gale throughout, was predictably a game of two halves. Of the 45 points shared between the sides, all were scored at the same end of the pitch.
Hastings and Bexhill fielded a squad showing several changes from their last outing at home to Brockleians a fortnight before, including a start for Tom Hirst on the wing and the return of Frazer McManus into the pack.
Playing against the gale in the first half, their typically resolute defence conceded only one try shortly before the interval. But there were too many dropped passes, too many penalties conceded, and the usually effective lineouts were chaotic. Cliffe made good use of territorial dominance and wind assistance to score a quartet of well-struck penalties, and led 17-0 at the break.
Bruce Steadman – four conversions out of four
CREDIT: Yellow Rose Photography
After the interval it was a different story. Jake Stinson opened the Hastings account with a well-taken try following strong runs by Harry Walker and Calvin Crosby-Clarke in midfield. The conversion was achieved by a beautiful kick from skipper Bruce Steadman, and from then on H& B dominated.
Tom Hirst made a break on the wing, then passed inside to Joe Field who flew through the Crusaders defence from halfway to touch down under the
posts. Another good passing interchange between Walker and Stinson set the winger free for his second try of the game to put H&B into the lead. Again Steadman converted from wide out.
A fourth try securing a league bonus point was scored by prop forward McDonagh, following a kick to the line. Steadman notched his fourth conversion out of four.
The win put H&B into the final of the Kent Cup to be played in late April. As to the league, after a walkover awarded against Foots Cray who failed to raise a team for last Saturday’s fixture in Hastings, they are back in second place, level on points with Old Williamsonians (OWs) but with a marked superiority in respective points differentials.
Park House have already effectively secured the league championship but the runners-up position, with a potential promotion play-off as prize, may go to the wire. H&B and the OWs each have two games left. Neither play next week, but H&B will then face a challenging away game against Kings College Hospital on 5 March while OWs entertain New Ash Green.
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