St Leonards Cinque Ports 90
Racal Decca 22
Ports found themselves facing touring opposition from South London in the form of Racal Decca.
Despite the geographic distance, Racal have maintained friendly relationships with Ports since hosting a touring Ports side in 2012, Ports were well beaten then but defeated Racal at their own tournament in 2014.
The South Londoners made the return visit to St Leonards on a day of blistering sunshine, to face a much improved and large Ports squad.
Ports started solidly, playing through phases and both Tom Ingram and Luke Barningham came close. Steve Hall showed great control and composure and fed debutant Jody Freeman who powered over from five metres.
Racal Decca kicked off and the ball fell into the hands of George Upton, he accelerated away and waltzed through a stunned defence and dotted down under the posts. Barningham converted.
The game became quite messy, and ill-disciplined. Hall was a dogged presence, Matt Standen drove the ball forward and Ashley Mountain was there to finish the move. Ross Kearney slotted the conversion.
Mickey Scriven was a willing carrier throughout, and he made yards. Upton powered through a gap, and his offload found Mountain who drove over for a second. Ashley Diedericks converted.
A loose kick allowed Racal the space to score. Ports drove back, Diedericks made a testing kick, Hall controlled the ruck, and Tom Ingram peeled away deflecting defenders and crashed over with tacklers hanging off him. Barningham added another conversion.
Racal took more control of the game, and determined tackling by Ingram held them back. Kearney made metres with a number of runs and connected well with Rob Mayer and Josh Storey.
Storey fed the ball and Upton found the space to run home for a second. Hall converted.
Racal attacked again but kicked a loose ball, Ingram hacked the ball forward. Diedericks was quick to react and ran around a shell-shocked defence to dot down. Barningham converted again.
Ports made a raft of changes, but it didn’t seem to alter the pattern. The ball was worked through hands and Joe Whitehill-James found a tiny gap and ghosted through. Barningham converted again. Whitehill-James showed real skill to unlock the defence again and put over Mayer for a score days before he heads off to Australia. Upton scored another, Barningham again converting, before Racal scored another try.
Ports made more changes and Kearney ran half the field before unselfishly feeding Gavin Thomas for the veteran forward to score under the posts.
Scrums became uncontested and from a stationary scrum Murray Warman received a flat pass from the generous Kearney and outran the defence to score.
Ports switched off a little and Racal scored two tries. Ports picked the pace up again and Neil Davie who had been sniping throughout found a gap from a quick penalty and scored and converted to end the scoring.
Coach Paul Smart was realistic in his summary, he said: “A strong Ports side ran in some wonderful tries but showed a temporary lack of focus to concede 22 points. Overall a very satisfying day.”
A number of players placed themselves in the man of the match conversation. Upton and Ingram as ever were influential, Scriven was a powerful runner but Steve Hall was named E-Heat man of the match for setting the tone with his control and distribution.
The victory highlighted Ports good form since February with their sixth win in seven games.
15 L Barningham 14 Mayer 13 Kearney 12 Standen 11 Warman 10 Diedericks 9 Hall 1 Freeman 2 Wright 3 Giles 4 Storey 5 Mountain 6 Scriven 7 Upton 8 Ingream
Interchange Players: Porter, Thomas, C Barningham, Daniels, Barrowclough, Davie, Smart, Whitehill-James, Steele