St Leonards Cinque Ports 50
Earlier in the season Ports travelled to Lewes with only 15 players and injuries meant they ended the game with 13, this return fixture saw history repeat itself, with Lewes arriving with 14 and ending the game with 12.
The early exchanges did not reflect this, Lewes carried well and showed real pace out on the fringes. Ports looked solid defensively though, Murray Warman put in a number of aggressive tackles, George Upton was at every break down and out wide Max Olujobi and Luke Barningham cut down any attacking probes.
Ports found space against the lower numbers, Matt Standen was a battering ram, as was Tom Ingram. Ingram was unlucky not score after a surge. Henry Hill showed composure and put the ball wide where Standen barrelled over.
Lewes showed real strength to push forward and an offence at a ruck allowed them to score a penalty.
Ports were strong in the scrum, and used it as an attacking platform but in broken play they were most dangerous. The bustling Ashley Diedericks found some space and fixed the defence to send Upton through a gap. Barningham slotted the conversion.
As the first half continued Lewes showed real determination to get within striking distance, there was some dogged defence from the likes of Ashley Mountain and Standen but ill-discipline kept Ports hemmed in.
A clash of heads saw Lewes lose a player when he clashed with Upton and their play maker left the field too, this meant gaps opened but Ports made some poor decisions and did not take advantage of the space.
As the second half started Ports were more focussed. Steve Hall and Hill pulled the strings, Ingram carried hard and from good field position the rangy Mountain broke through some loose tackles to crash home for his first of the season. Barningham again converting.
Ports were making the numbers tell, Standen showed remarkable strength to carry with a number of tacklers on him. The ball was turned over, but Barningham showed tenacity to win it back and keep himself in field to dive over in the corner.
Tired legs and the lack of numbers was making Lewes’ task more difficult, the tenacious Warman found space and outran the defence to score another out wide. Lewes as an attacking force was depleted, and Ports were making inroads with every move.
Olujobi danced and twisted his way into the Lewes defence, a number of intricate off-loads opened up a gap and the irrepressible Mickey Scriven slid through the gap to tap down to end an excellent team move. Barningham stroked home the conversion.
From the kick-off Lewes hit the ball away from the forwards, they found the mercurial Barningham who waltzed his way to the line. His opposite number scragged him but his offload found Warman. Barningham converted the move he started.
Ports continued to probe, Olujobi was unlucky not to score in the corner and Ingram battered at the line. Warman finished the game though with a 70 metre counter attack that he ended in the corner.
The game concluded with a conversion from the touchline by Diedericks.
Coach Paul Smart captured the post match mood when he said: “A great result and a big win against a young, quick Lewes side. It was a very structured performance but plenty to work on…”
Smart also discussed the ambitions for the season: “We’re still aiming for a top half finish this year, leading to a credible challenge for the top next season.”
The team as a whole shone, with Mountain and Ingram back to their destructive best but in discussing man of the match the calm, collected Hill stood out for his game management. Warman playing out of position at flanker shone with a hat-trick and an aggressive defensive performance but E-Heat man of the match was Luke Barningham. All facets of play were excellent and he was at the heart of Ports running game.
15 Hutchins (Steele) 14 Olujobi 13 Diedericks 12 Standen (Scriven) 11 Barningham 10 Hill 9 Hall (Hutchins) 1 Monks 2 Whyte 3 Giles (Wan) 4 Storey 5 Mountain 6 Warman 7 Upton 8 Ingram