St Leonards CP 0
Crowborough II 31
Ports found themselves in the Sussex Bowl semi-final facing higher league opposition.
Crowborough had beaten Ports twice last season on their way to a league title and came into this game as strong favourites.
Both teams made errors from the off, while it was clear that Ports had the edge in the scrum Crowborough ruled the skies in at the line-out.
From a line out Crowborough’s powerful back row drove on, Barry Porter made a strong tackle before Luke Barningham and Ross Kearney stopped the run but a deft offload put them over.
The game degenerated into a kicking contest, Murray Warman and Barningham both returned kicks with interest but the Crowborough defence was resolute throughout.
A second try was added, before Ports found some territory themselves. A searching kick by Mike Hutchins was almost converted by Max Olujobi and a powerful scrum from five metres out was unlucky not to drive over.
Greg Montier was at the heart of the best work that Ports put together, he carried continually and in defence drove back the opposition continually.
Crowborough added a third, again Ports fought back. Dale Whittington was a limpet at the breakdown and Rob Tritton carried strongly.
Ports made a raft of changes for the second half. Paul Smart provided some zip, and Ash Diedericks was an aggressive presence before leaving the field with an injury.
Injury was a feature of the game; Warman left the field with a head injury, and hard running forward Colin Whyte left the field with a potentially serious injury.
Crowborough added two more tries but the game shifted strongly to the Ports. Barningham was a mercurial runner, and Montier crashed at the line. Tritton also came close, as did the dancing feet of Olujobi but the red wall in defence could not be broken.
Despite the result Coach Smart picked out some positives: “It was a strong performance against a quality side. They were better but we can be very proud of our effort right to the 80th minute.”
A number of strong contenders put themselves forward for the E-Heat man of the match award. Whittington put in a typical all-action performance and Barningham was back to his dashing best but the E-Heat man of the match was given to the tireless Montier. The back-row forwards work rate was unsurpassed throughout
15 L Barningham 14 Olujobi 13 Kearney (Hill) 12 Hutchins 11 Warman (Steele) 10 Hill (Diedericks/Loving-Price) 9 Hall (Smart) 1 Tritton (Giles) 2 Porter (Wan) 3 Whyte (Tritton) 4 Mountain (Perry) 5 Storey 6 Montier 7 Whittington 8 Ingram
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