St Leonards Cinque Ports 38
Ports continued improvement as a club meant that for the 18/19 season they started with a pre-season game against a Newick side that finished mid-table of Sussex 2 a division above Ports.
A large squad, with some notable missing faces travelled to mid Sussex knowing that they would face a tough test.
The two previous away games to Newick’s 1st XV had resulted in heavy defeats but Ports went in to the game with confidence high and this was borne out by the early exchanges.
Matt Standen put in some big tackles, and Ross Kearney proved an able jackal at the breakdown. George Upton combined with Murray Warman to break up field, Mickey Scriven carried well and good management of the ruck by Bob McCormack at scrum half worked through the phases before Standen cut a strong line and scored, Henry Hill converted.
Newick carried well, Ash Mountain was dominant tackler, and a loose kick by Newick gave Luke Barningham some space, he kicked and chased down the ball.
Newick scrambled desperately but Barningham’s accurate pass found Will Steele and the winger dotted down under the posts. Hill slotted again.
Hill was a controlling presence, making the backs tick. Steele gave his best performance for Ports and debutant Max Olujobi demonstrated frightening pace.
Some loose tackling allowed Newick back in. From the kick-off Upton put in a huge tackle, Newick panicked at the breakdown and Warman intercepted and ran home Ports third try.
As the half came to end Ports poor discipline kept them penned in their own half, Kearney and Mountain put in a huge defensive shift. Newick made some personnel changes and they ended the half with a set-piece try.
Newick started the second half with a try, to take the lead. Solid work by Standen and Upton tore the ball back, and again a loose Newick pass found a flyer and Kearney ran home his first try of the season. Hill converted again.
Newick flew back at Ports, and again poor discipline kept Ports hemmed in which gave Newick a platform. They scored two tries to give them breathing space. Tired legs on both sides gave space to manoeuvre, strong work at the breakdown gave Ports possession and moving the ball through the hands found Barningham who went over for a well-deserved try.
Warman found the ball in space, and he found a gap to pick up his second. Hill slotted. This gave ports a three point lead, but Newick dominated at the set piece to give them a further two tries but even the 11 point gap seemed not to reflect how close the game was.
Ports coach Paul Smart reflected the quality of performance: “A strong start, and a controlled finish. We should have won but a determined middle period from Newick just tipped the balance. Overall it was very pleasing, a very good performance”.
Several players put themselves forward for post-match awards. Steele was strong in the tackle and ran good support lines, Oluboji was a dangerous runner and Luke Barningham was back to his mercurial best but Henry Hill won the E-Heat man of the match award for his game management, cool head and dogged defence.
15 Whitehill-James (L Barningham) 14 Waring (Oluboji) 13 Kearney (Barrowclough) 12 Standen 11 Steele 10 Hill 9 McCormack (Smart) 1 Monks 2 Wright (Thomas) 3 Giles (Freeman) 4 C Barningham (Daniels) 5 Mountain 6 Scriven 7 Warman 8 Upton