Beccehamian 31, Hastings & Bexhill 24 
By Peter Knight

They came, they fought and though they did not conquer, Hastings & Bexhill gave their all – as they have done all season. Only a win in the final match of their London & South East league season, away at second-in-the-table Beccehamian, would have lifted them out of the third relegation place. They conceded four tries in the opening half but clawed their way back into the contest, scored four tries of their own, and only a fifth touchdown by their hosts at the death finally ended their resistance. The two bonus points achieved  are, alas, not enough to save them from reverting back to Kent local rugby next season.With only Calvin Crosby-Clarke missing from his regular first choice squad, H&B coach Ben Davies came with a strong side. But Beccehamian’s quality players soon took control of the game. Three tries with two conversions in the first half-hour put them into a commanding position. H&B hit back with two good tries of their own. The first came from winger Tim Sills: he gathered the ball over fifty metres out and surged through the home defence to touch down under the posts. Tom Waring slotted the straightforward conversion. Roger Roberts, one of the hardest-working players on the pitch, scored the second. The H&B pack were taking control of the game and this domination of tight play allowed the versatile flanker to crash over the line to reduce the deficit to seven points.The home side came back with a try out wide. This was converted with a great kick to make the halftime score 26-12.Nick Van Herpen had replaced Dominic Sewell, who was suffering from a recurring shoulder injury, and Roberts moved to second row. This change made no difference to H&B’s determined effort. Adam Parkhouse capitalised on great work from Tom Vincent and Isaac Wales to score an excellent try that Bruce Steadman converted. Hastings were in touching distance of a heroic win when right wing Sam Surridge touched down following a fantastic cross-field move of flowing rugby: 26-24 with ten minutes to play.

Frazer McManus on the ball for H&B
PICTURE: Peter Knight

Unfortunately a tough penalty kick that would have put H&B into the lead narrowly missed the target. Despite colossal tackles in defence from Archie Ridpath, Frazer McManus and Jake Stinson, the home side finally managed to win the day with one more score of their own.With the league campaign complete, coach Davies has three weeks to hone his squad before the Bob Rogers Sussex Cup Final at East Grinstead RFC on 27th April. H&B take on London Division Two club Horsham RFC in their first ever appearance in the final of this prestigious competition.

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