Steely Hellingly power through to take the win

St Leonards Cinque Ports 29
Hellingly II 31
(HT 17-14)

Historically these clashes have been very close and this tie was no different, Ports were bolstered by a number of Hastings & Bexhill players as part of their ground sharing relationship and had a sizeable and experienced squad.

Ports as typical, were structured and organised, at a ruck Rick Cowlard tidied up and Henry Hill fed the ball to George Upton who ran a skittering line through the defence to score.

Cowlard and Upton were both busy presences at the ruck, and Kim Wan playing out of position at prop was a strong player at ruck and tackle.

Hellingly had some traction in the scrum and it took a tough tackle from Luke Barningham to cut an attack out. Matt Standen ran a strong line and was cut down by a high tackle. From the resulting scrum the ball was worked well through the hands, Hill stringing the line out. Barningham cut inside and was tackled on the line but his offload found Joe Whitehill-James who scored in the corner.

Murray tackles
Murray Warman makes a tackle.

Hellingly now found their rhythm, they punched up the field using a powerful pick and go game and drove over the line. Ports punched back, a solid scrum gave them options both sides and Steve Hall and Hill combined well. Hill timed his pass perfectly and Murray Warman ran an arcing angle to scythe through the defence and score. Barningham converted.

Hellingly struck back again, they moved the ball well and a wide pass saw them over in the corner.

Ports looked stronger in the last 15 minutes of the half. Ashley Mountain carried well, Upton almost added to his list but dropped the ball on the line and Mickey Scriven intercepted and came close.

Despite these efforts the half ended with no further scores.

In the second half Hellingly were direct, but hard to stop. Their pick and go game punching them upfield. Upton, Wan and Josh Storey all made numerous tackles but could not halt the drives. A third Hellingly try came as a result.

Ports were stung and both sides became less structured. The imperious Upton tidied up after a period of back and forth, Hall found Morgan Pearse who hit the ball at pace and outstripped the defence to edge Ports back in front. The St Leonards outfit drove forward, Warman and Barningham combined well. A cross-field kick by Hill found Whitehill-James who was tackled into touch but there was some confusion as Hellingly ran in what they thought was a good score, before taking a deserved lead after more hard carrying.

Hellingly looked the more likely winners before Scriven launched a huge clearance kick. The chase was good, and Rob Finney made a strong pass that found Barningham he fed Upton who scored his second. Barningham converted.

Despite the narrow lead Hellingly could not be denied, they found their way back up field and drove over from a scrum. The missed conversion was the last act of the game.

Coach Paul Smart confirmed St Leonards’ disappointment, he said after the match: “It was disappointing to lose by two points with the last play of the game. Although we were stronger in the first half, a well drilled opposition closed the game down in the second half with their driving pack.”

Despite the defeat there were a number of strong performances. Kim Wan was a physical presence throughout, Joe Whitehill-James was a dangerous runner but E-Heat Man of the Match was George Upton, who was at the heart of everything.

Squad 15 Hutchins (Waring) 14 Whitehill-James 13 Warman 12 Standen (Pearse) 11 L Barningham 10 Hill 9 Hall (Finney) 1 Monks (Giles) 2 Cowlard 3 Wan 4 Storey 5 Mountain 6 Saunders (Schofield) 7 Upton 8 C Barningham (Scriven) Unused Sub Thomas

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