Hellingly II 17
St Leonards Cinque Ports 23
Sussex Division 3 has become increasingly congested, and Ports sitting in seventh found themselves only six points behind second place prior to Saturdays’ game.
Historically games between Ports and Hellingly are tight, and Hellingly were sitting in fifth on the back of their win at Ports earlier in the season.
The situation was complicated for Ports by a number of key players missing and some personnel and positional changes needed. The game started edgily.
Hellingly were strong at the scrum, and James Daniels making his first start found himself up against a player double his age. Despite this the young loosehead gave a good account and carried well.
Mickey Scriven carrying the ball (Mickey Bumps off)
Despite losing the scrum as a platform Ports were strong in possession. Mickey Scriven punished numerous loose kicks with powerful running. The backs looked unusual with veteran Paul Smart at inside centre and Mike Hutchins at full-back but the two extra pivots unleashed the fleet footed Murray Warman and Ross Kearney.
Hellingly also had big carriers, but Kearney was a tackling machine and at the breakdown George Upton was a limpet winning key turnovers. Hellingly were on the Ports line when Kearney broke them out, and Hutchins cleared.
From lineout ball Kearney and Upton combined to make yards before Warman showed his pace to outstrip the defence and dive over in the corner.
Smart and Henry Hill began to dominate space. Their passes gave Warman space for another carry and Scriven was a wrecking ball. With the scrum still struggling for parity Ports upped their line speed, this improved speed gave Kearney space for an interception which he finished well. Hill converted. Kearney, Scriven and Charlie Meredith all made key tackles.
Neil Davie on a sniping run (Neil Snipes)
Meredith also began to control the line out. Ill-discipline gave Hellingly a penalty. The hosts began to look more dangerous.
Hill made a key tackle, Kearney led the defensive effort and Warman stopped some big Hellingly runners. Ports held off a maul from a lineout and Craig Barningham made a key interception to the end the half.
The second half started with Hellingly more fluid, and they looked to have scored but their winger overran the ball. Despite this they scored the next try after a number of phases.
Neil Davie returning after an injury in October began to test the defence, running around the fringes. Good hands from his sneak saw Luke Loving-Price being denied in the corner. Both sides gave away a number of penalties, but Hill slotted one to restore a five point lead.
Smart unleashed a massive clearance, and from the line out and rumbling maul Ports hammered at the line. Davie came close, as did Warman before the ref gave a scrum.
Davie made a key tackle. Ports then found greater fluency, and made a number of phases. Upton then cut a dangerous line stripping the defence, he was tackled but his offload found Kearney allowing the Irish centre over for his second try.
Hutchins and Kearney made key tackles, and Josh Storey carried well. Another Upton burst led to a penalty and Hill showed great composure to slot it.
Hellingly found enough possession to score again, but Ports controlled the final minutes well and were in Hellingly’s 22 when Hill kicked the ball dead to end the game.
Steve Hall controls possession (Steve at base)
Smart outlined the platform for Ports win: “… a very structured, focussed performance. Hellingly were not allowed to play. Ports controlling the game. A great 80 minute effort”.
A number of players put themselves forward with strong performances. Scriven set the tone with his early dangerous running, Meredith scrapped for every ball, Smart unlocked the potent backs. Despite these efforts the E-Heat man of the match was shared between Upton who dominated the breakdown and tackle and Kearney who defended well and found his scoring touch with two well-taken tries
15 Hutchins 14 Warman 13 Kearney 12 Smart 11 Barrowclough (Loving-Price) 10 Hill 9 Hall (Davie) 1 Daniels (Whyte) 2 Wright 3 Giles 4 Barningham (Wan) 5 Mountain (Storey) 6 Meredith (Pykett) 7 Upton 8 Scriven