St Leonards Cinque Ports 24
What was nominally a home game for Ports was moved to Eastbourne, this was not a major concern after a 31-5 win earlier in the season at Eastbourne and Ports having an impressive backline available to them.
The level of concern did rise though when the swamp like conditions were apparent. The sticky pitch did not suit the running game Ports had planned, and the random factor of the pitch was clear when a misfielded kick and some lucky bounces saw Eastbourne score in the corner after mere seconds.
Eastbourne had an initial surge and it took ferocious tackling from Luke Loving-Price and George Upton to hold them back. Upton was returning from a long injury lay-off but threw himself at every ruck aggressively.
The victorious Cinque Ports team after a tough match at Eastbourne on Saturday.
Ports slowed the game down, Nick Giles and Tom Monks dominated in the scrum and both were key ball-carriers. Ports worked through the phases, Ashley Diedericks and Murray Warman were both destined to cross the line but the slippy ball undid them.
Veteran scrum-half Paul Smart controlled the game, and from a scrum Colin Whyte crashed into contact. Smart moved the ball quickly and centre Matt Standen drove through heavy traffic to crash over.
Eastbourne tried to utilise a kicking game, Luke Barningham fielded everything that came at him and his quick feet put Ports back on the front-foot. Another kick found replacement Ross Kearney, he straightened up and found Warman, the skipper broke through but was tackled. His offload though found Rob Mayer and the big wing powered past the defence and under the posts. Henry Hill slotted the conversion.
Rob Mayer powers through the opposition.
Mayer could have added a number of other scores, his running strong throughout. Ports were dominating now, Loving-Price made big yards and Diedericks found gaps.
The second half saw Ports starting strongly again. Conditions became worse, but Ports mastered them. Upton and Craig Barningham both stole balls.
Broken field was a hunting ground for the Ports. Luke Barningham found a gap, Warman picked up the pass but was again tackled. His ball found Mayer, he smashed through his opposite number to dive over.
Ports made a number of changes but this did not affect the rhythm. Craig Barrowclough came on and carried well and tackled bravely, and debutant Louie Pykett also made a nuisance of himself.
Giles and Monks continued to drive Ports on, the big men now finding gaps and making metres. Loving-Price also found gaps, he connected well with Mayer. He couldn’t find his third try, but Diedericks recycled and Warman again found space but this time he could not be denied and he dragged his tackler over the line with him. Hill Converted well.
Eastbourne found some more fluency in the closing stages but the defence held well. Despite the conditions Ports managed well throughout, and dominated at scrum time including a number of wins against the head.
After the game coach Paul Smart was effusive in his praise, he said: “It was a great performance by the whole squad in woeful conditions. Controlled rugby saw Ports retain over 80 per cent of possession and stifling a strong Eastbourne Team”.
Numerous players put themselves forward for individual honours. Loving-Price was a dangerous runner, Mayer also tore the defence apart. Despite this the conditions meant it was always a forwards game and Monks carried well but his prop partner Nick Giles was named E-Heat man of the match for a textbook performance in the front row
15 L Barningham 14 Warman 13 Diedericks 12 Standen (Kearney/Steele) 11 Mayer 10 Hill 9 Smart (Barrowclough) 1 Monks (Pykett) 2 Wright (Thomas) 3 Giles 4 Storey (Wan) 5 C Barningham (Porter) 6 Loving-Price 7 Upton 8 Whyte