St Leonards Cinque Ports 43
Uckfield II 12
After their original league opposition Crawley forefeited the tie, Ports were forced to search for an alternative fixture.
Uckfield II agreed to visit Hastings, while Uckfield are the division below they spent last season In Sussex 2 and had started the league unbeaten.
Ports had a strong squad but knew they would face a strong team, as expected Uckfield started strongly, Ports lacked concentration in the early exchanges and found Uckfield beating at their door.
George Upton drove them back with some major tackles and Luke Loving-Price then stole the ball. Steve Hall cleared with a box kick, it bounced fortuitously into the hands of Luke Barningham. The winger outstripped the defence and touched down. He converted his own score.
Ports looked dangerous, Loving-Price and Murray Warman combined well and Tierlen Behan and Jody Freeman carried strongly. In defence Upton, Loving-Price and Mickey Scriven put in some punishing tackles.
Scriven pushed Ports near the line but Uckfield broke away and looked dangerous before Barningham swept on the ball and ran home an interception try. He again slotted the conversion.
Ports begun to find their structure, Henry Hill had real control his kick finding space. Uckfield couldn’t field the kick and Upton hacked forward. The ball was worked through the hands, Barningham came close before the ball worked inside. Colin Whyte made a clever inside pass and Scriven dived over. Barningham again kicked home.
Ash Mountain found a gap to run the ball back after the kick off, Scriven and Warman connected well before Hall fed Upton who ran a sublime angle and dived over in the corner.
Where the first half had demonstrated Ports silky running, the second half required them to demonstrate their physicality. Uckfield drove themselves at the line in wave after wave.
Upton, Scriven and Mountain drove them back. Chopper Gooders also held them up over the line before Uckfield broke the line. Ports drove back, Scriven and Freeman came close before Scriven collected a yellow card.
Despite their numerical disadvantage Ports still showed attacking flair. Upton ran at the defence before kicking ahead, he fielded his own kick and dived over. Warman also found space and made a brutal run handing off four players before being hauled down. He would not be denied though, and a quick counter attack found him running the ball in from 50 metres.
Barningham again converted. Ports worked the ball through the phases, Scriven carrying well. Hill then fed Upton who ran over for his hat-trick try.
Uckfield came back and scored with the last action of the game but Ports had already demonstrated their superiority as the game came to an end. Player-Coach Paul Smart recognised the quality of the performance, he said: “…great control, solid performance. We’ve never taken a team apart with such concentration.”
A number of players shone. Barningham was a mercurial runner, Upton was lethal in defence, breakdown and attack but the E-Heat man of the match was awarded to Luke Loving-Price, he put in the hidden “ugly” work in dummy running, tackling and jackalling at the breakdown.
15 Hutchins (Smart) 14 Steele 13 Warman 12 Loving-Price 11 L Barningham 10 Hill 9 Hall (Gooders) 1 Freeman (Giles) 2 Whyte (Wright) 3 Behane 4 Storey (Thomas) 5 Mountain 6 Scriven 7 Upton 8 C Barningham (Barrowclough)