St Leonards CP 25
Eastbourne II 15
Ports had started the season slowly with injuries and lack of availability meaning that going into this key league game a radical new front row of Kim Wan, James Daniels and Greg Montier were at the heart of a large Ports pack.
Eastbourne brought a large and youthful squad and their well-organised warm-up translated into a punchy start for the visitors.
Rob Mayer and Dale Whittington both made key early tackles before Ports got their hands on the ball. The powerful Montier drove at the Eastbourne defence, Whittington and Ross Kearney both came close before Wan was denied on the line.
Neil Davie at scrum half was a dancing presence and he linked play well. Montier drove on again and hands found Murray Warman in space to dive over in the corner.
Despite the significant changes in the forwards Ports worked well in the scrummage and line-out. Josh Storey and Ash Mountain put in lots of unseen work in the tackle and ruck.
Eastbourne came back at Ports and pressure and ill-discipline gave them two tries and a 10-5 lead. At this point Eastbourne were confident and historically Ports may have capitulated but Ports were resolute.
Montier and Warman both came close with interceptions and Davie danced at the line twice but was repulsed. Eastbourne ripped the ball on the line but they watched hopelessly as Will Steele dived through to touch down and equalise. Luke Barningham slotted the conversion and Ports never looked back.
Luke Loving-Price threw an outlandish pass to Barningham that the winger was unlucky not to convert, but Ports began to control the possession.
Mountain made a piercing run and Eastbourne were penalised in defence and Barningham slotted the penalty. Whittington also made a surging run that was stopped illegally and Barningham again kicked the penalty.
Ports made a number of changes in the second half and were slightly disjointed, Montier again was at the fore but Eastbourne dragged themselves within three with another try.
Veteran Paul Smart made a nuisance of himself ripping well in the tackle and winning ruck ball. He also used his deft boot to place the ball in the corner, a fantastic defensive maul gave Ports the ball and the ball was quickly worked through the hands and Whittington ran over to add a third try. Barningham kicked the conversion again.
Ports continued to come close, Mayer was unlucky not to feed Steele for a second try and Montier and Mountain crashed through the line at will.
When Eastbourne did come forward Whittington and Loving-Price shut them down and Daniels drove runners back freely.
The game came to an end with Ports again repulsing the Eastbourne attack. Coach Smart was positive in his summimg up: “it was a solid, fantastic squad performance today.
“Eastbourne brought a well-drilled side but our game-play and attitude won the day”.
Many players put themselves forward as man of the match. Whittington was an all-action presence, and Mountain and Storey were both unsung heroes with their unseen work. Daniels was a dangerous heavy traffic runner also but E-Heat man of the match was Greg Montier. The hooker tackled superbly, broke the line at will and was largely unplayable for Eastbourne.
15 Hutchins 14 L Barningham 13 Warman 12 Kearney(Standen) 11 Steele 10 Hill (Fink) 9 Davie (Smart) 1 Daniels (Whyte) 2 Montier 3 Wan (Daniels) 4 Mountain (Thomas) 5 Storey (C Barningham) 6 Loving-Price (Ingram) 7 Mayer 8 Whittington