East Grinstead 59
St Leonards Cinque Ports 17
St Leonards Cinque Ports RFC travelled to East Grinstead with a squad badly affected by injuries and unavailability making the challenge of facing a powerful East Grinstead side even more daunting.
East Grinstead dominated early possession, Mickey Scriven tackled everything and Nick Giles was a powerhouse at the ruck. Despite these defensive efforts East Grinstead scored a clutch of early tries, the host’s youthful backline proving too quick for a powerful Ports side.
Despite this Murray Warman provided aggressive covering tackles and winger Max Olujobi bounced from tackle to tackle. Ports did begin to take possession back, Mike Hutchins controlled the ruck and good carrying by Tom Monks and Tom Ingram got Ports up the field and from a scrum Ingram tore away his offload and found Warman who outran the defence to score.
Hutchins managed the tempo well and Ports slowed East Grinstead down but a number of breakaways gave East Grinstead a handsome lead, before Hutchins and Henry Hill connected well after Matt Standen rampaged through a clutch of tackles. Hill found Chris Challinor on the charge and his clever pass fed Colin Whyte who rolled back the years to scamper towards the line, Hutchins tidied at the ruck and fed Warman for his second.
The second half started with ports working the phases well, Greg Montier and Josh Storey carried. East Grinstead slowed the advance, Hill put up a clever kick which Olujobi fielded and showed dangerous pace to score. Hill slotted the conversion.
Ports maintained their discipline and from a number of penalties and strong scrummages drove at the line. Mark Wright came close and Giles appeared to dot down but the try was not given.
Ports were again under the cosh, Scriven carried out an aggressive rip and Ingram was bullish in defence but East Grinstead found their way over again.
Standen carried well throughout too, the East Grinstead defence knew he was coming but could do little to stop him before the gain line.
The game petered out with Ports again working through the phases but the referee blew the whistle with Olujobi near the try line but with a foot in touch.
Ports team manager Gavin Thomas unpicked the defeat saying: “We came with 12 forwards against a youthful back-line. We weren’t always smart in defence but we showed real grit to slow the game down and in possession we looked measured and dangerous.
“It’s not what we wanted but it’s something to build on.”
Despite the result there were some strong performances. Olujobi showed devastating pace and ferocious tackling, Scriven was an awkward presence and Ingram and Warman showed real leadership but E-Heat man of the match was given to Mike Hutchins for his calm control of the breakdown, and his influence on the pace of the game.
Squad 15 Warman 14 Whyte 13 Challinor 12 Standen 11 Olujobi 10 Hill 9 Hutchins 1 Monks (Freeman) 2 Wright (Thomas) 3 Giles 4 Barningham (Daniels) 5 Storey 6 Scriven 7 Montier 8 Ingram