Lewes II 36
St Leonards Cinque Ports 12
A substantial list of injured and unavailable players meant Ports were without 19 regular squad members for selection, and as late as 6pm the night before the game had only 11 available players.
They made the trip to Lewes eventually with a squad of 15, but this included a number of players carrying knocks and veterans Paul Smart and Gavin Thomas making rare starts.
Things started predictably, a youthful Lewes side went over early. Ports quickly found themselves a few tries behind, and the site of Max Olujobi and Greg Montier limping off made the task even more challenging.
Ports strengthened their resolve, Mike Hutchins playing out of position at full-back cut a number of attacks dead and Josh Storey was also a physical presence, working hard in the tackle and the ruck. Dale Whittington also got himself around the park making key tackles.
Ports slowed the game down, and the front row of debutant Tierlen Behane, Colin Whyte and Nick Giles dominated the set piece.
From the dominant scrum Ports found some go forward. Murray Warman and Luke Barningham both came close with probing runs, Hutchins found space and Giles was unlucky not to crash over after a number of penalties found Ports on the five metre line.
Eventually the pressure told and Lewes had to resort to infringement to stop Tom Ingram crashing over and a penalty try was given.
The second half started with another Lewes try, before Ports again controlled the ball for long periods. Whittington carried well, and Warman found greater amounts of space. Ports managed their discipline, but desperate defence at the ruck gave Ports more penalties and Lewes a yellow card.
Smart was targeted but he effectively recycled the ball. After a number of scrums for penalty offences, Smart quickly tapped the ball and passed the ball through the hands. Warman accelerated away to score a second for Ports.
At this point the game was in the balance, clever kicks by Warman and Barningham almost found space but Lewes made two late breakaways to add a different sheen to the game.
Smart in his role as player-coach captured the mood: “Numbers were low, but it was an excellent performance from the whole team. The game was touch and go until the last six minutes.”
The team as a whole shone, but some players stood out. Storey was strong in the tackle, and drove the engine room of the scrum. Whittington was dynamic and broke down a number of attacks but E-Heat man of the match was given to Mike Hutchins. Despite being out of position he made key tackles throughout the game, and showed some swagger in attack.
Squad 15 Hutchins 14 Olujobi 13 Warman 12 Loving-Price 11 L Barningham 10 Hill 9 Smart 1 Behane 2 Whyte 3 Giles 4 Thomas 5 Storey 6 Montier 7 Whittington 8 Ingram