St Leonards Cinque Ports 7
The omens were clearly not in Ports favour as they prepared for the trip to Hellingly.
A number of late drop outs meant that Ports travelled with a bare squad, add to that a swirling wind and freezing rain and most challenging of all a Hellingly squad bolstered by their 1st XV dropping out of London Division 3 – Ports clearly had a challenging task ahead of them.
This was clear from early exchanges, the hosts had scored two tries before Ports had any real possession.
Despite this domination of possession Ports did not make it an easy task. Kim Wan made a number of pulverising tackles around the fringes. When Hellingly did break George Upton and Morgan Pearce cut down the lone runners.
The sloppy conditions, and heavy rain meant a lot of the game was spent at the breakdown. Josh Storey worked tirelessly at the breakdown, playing out of position as flanker he made key tackles and slowed the ball down effectively.
There was some strong play elsewhere, a Hellingly attack on the line was halted by Will Steele and Gavin Thomas.
When Ports did get possession they made some good yards, Neil Davie was back to his sniping best and Pearce was a big runner throughout.
A fantastic Nick Giles rip tackle set up a counter attack with his front row partner Colin Whyte providing the hard yards.
Hellingly added scores regularly through the half but Ports defended stoutly with Wan and Storey leading the charge.
In the second half with the wind on their back Ports put together more possession. Davie who had made brave tackles throughout the game was now a creator, Upton, Whyte and Craig Barningham all made yards before the game settled into a pattern of scrums and kicking.
Pearce thought he had scored, but with the game called back for a scrum the solid platform allowed Davie to scamper over for the try. Luke Barningham converted well.
Ports were in the ascendency for chunks of the half. Despite the conditions Upton worked well at the line out, giving Davie the ball to Whyte and Barningham to drive up. Despite improved possession Hellingly were strong defensively, and with the conditions taking their toll on the small Ports squad eventually the hosts added two tries that added a lop-sided look to the score.
Coach Paul Smart said after the match: “We faced a very strong Hellingly team, but we competed very evenly in the second half. The appalling conditions made it difficult for everyone”.
The day was characterised by brave performances, but the defensive efforts of a number of players stood out. Morgan Pearce tackled the big runners fearlessly and was unlucky not to score himself. Kim Wan ruled the fringes with a number of big tackles but the E-Heat man of the match was named as Josh Storey. The big forward was dogged at the breakdown, tackled well and carried in the heaviest of traffic.
15 L Barningham 14 Steele 13 Warman (Hutchins) 12 Pearce 11 Whitehill-James (Hall) 10 Hill 9 Davie 1 Whyte 2 Wright 3 Giles 4 Thomas 5 Wan 6 Storey 7 Upton 8 C Barningham