Rye RFC 21
St Leonards Cinque Ports 27
Ports had started the newly structured Sussex Division 3 East with three defeats, all away from home, they continued on the road this week, but only the short hop to Rye.
Rye had suffered two defeats too but had bested a Lewes team that ran away from Ports the previous week but unlike the Lewes clash Ports was fielding a strong squad.
Despite the clear strength of Ports a misfielded kick allowed Rye to kick through and score just seconds into the match.
The game settled down and Ports showed their strength at both scrum and line out. From these set pieces Ports made yards, Jody Freeman repeatedly hit the ball at pace, the prop making the gain line time after time.
George Upton was less direct but found gaps, he connected well with Luke Barningham and Ross Kearney on a number of occasions. Barningham pierced the line before Matt Standen took route one to make 40 yards.
Hands in the ruck meant Ports had a penalty, Upton took a quick tap and crashed over.
Ports found some rhythm, Upton was a go-to carrier and made good yards. Ports worked through the phases, Freeman again made the gain line before Kearney and Barningham combined well to put Barningham over and give Ports the lead.
Rye broke back, and a strong midfield break gave them the lead. Ports still had the ability to threaten the line, Kearney broke again and fed skipper Murray Warman who was brought down short and Barningham was a constant counter-attacking threat.
The second half started with Neil Davie making his first appearance of the season, he found Freeman and Upton again who made good yards. Rye showed their threat though, and it took a remarkable try saving tackle by Warman and good work at the breakdown to stem the flow.
Rye found another gap though and gave themselves an 11 point lead with a quarter of the game left. Davie sent the ball through the hands from a scrum, Kearney feeding Warman who would not be denied this time diving over in the corner.
Warman again led the thrusts, his stabbing run giving them territorial advantage. Rye had a scrum, but Davie scragged his opposite number and stole the ball. He offloaded to Upton, who basketball passed to Kearney who dived over.
Ports found themselves a point behind with less than five minutes to go. Davie made good yards, and Warman also came close. Rye looked secure before Warman broke and fed Upton. The back rower accelerated into space and left behind the full-back to dive over. Henry Hill slotted the conversion.
Rye almost snatched it at the end but the assured Barningham kicked the ball dead to give Ports their first ever win over Ryes 1st XV, coach Paul Smart was fulsome in his praise: “This was one of the best results in our history, to overturn a strong and forceful Rye team was credit to our structured game play and determination.”
A number of players put themselves forwards for individual mentions; Freeman scrummaged well and stole yards with the ball in possession, Luke Barningham was a dangerous runner and strong in defence but E-Heat man of the match was George Upton, he took his two tries well, tackled constantly and was the key ball carrier.
15 Hutchins 14 Warman 13 Kearney (Barrowclough/Smart) 12 Standen (Loving-Price) 11 L Barningham 10 Hill 9 Hall (Davie) 1 Freeman 2 Whyte 3 Giles (Wan) 4 Storey (Adey) 5 C Barningham (Mountain) 6 Whittington 7 Upton 8 Perry Unused Sub Thomas