St Leonards Cinque Ports 19
Ports travelled to Crawley with a strong squad, knowing they would face a strong home team XV.
Despite the strength and the size of the squad Ports had enforced changes in key positions, but the initial exchanges were defined by Crawley’s offloading game and strong running.
Ports held out the early bursts. Ash Mountain was the leader of the defensive line, making powerful tackles throughout. George Upton and Steve Hall also put themselves in harms way.
The rain and blustering wind saw a succession of scrums, Ports held their end up at the set piece but eventually the Crawley pressure told and they broke the line.
Ports gradually built up some possession. Henry Hill and Mike Hutchins were creative outlets, both relieving pressure with their kicking game. Morgan Pearce was also a strong runner, after an initial drive by Pearce and Luke Loving-Price Upton luckily kicked ahead and Luke Barningham collected the bounce.
The rapid winger found space and touched down. Strong carrying by Mountain, Mickey Scriven and Hutchins found Ports in attacking territory again but a quickly taken penalty got them up field and in the lead again.
Ill-discipline punished Ports and Crawley used the kicks well and a contentious maul from a line-out saw Crawley over despite some questions over the grounding.
Crawley started the second half strongly, a powerful run by their winger found them over again and a break down the wing saw a fifth try added.
The game was rapidly falling away from Ports but a number of changes gave them impetus. The arrival of Nick Giles in the front row saw Ports now dominating the scrum. Pearce, Upton and Scriven all drove them forward and Hill used the wind to his advantage.
The Ports forwards combined well, Chris Perry quickly fed Scriven and the nuggety forward used his strength to get over the line. Barningham converted.
An unlikely comeback was a clear challenge but strong runs by Mountain gave Ports real go ahead, and from a scrum Ports rolled onwards and Crawley had to resort to collapsing the scrum to stop the Ports eight. A penalty try quickly cut the lead to ten points.
Ports looked to bring the game to unlikely end, Hall scurried and the forwards knocked at the door but Crawley defended well and slowed the game down.
The game came to end as the rain again prevented either team playing free-flowing rugby.
Coach Paul Smart recognised the quality of the opposition in his assessment of the match: “It was an excellent game against a very strong Crawley side. Their first half performance was enough to hold out against our second half come back.”
A number of Ports players stood out. Hutchins was good under the Crawley kicking game, and offered an attacking option. Hill controlled the game, as he captained the side in the absence of Murray Warman but E-Heat man of the match was the powerful Ashley Mountain. He tackled strongly throughout, and carried aggressively.
15 Hutchins 14 L Barningham 13 Pearce (Steele) 12 Loving-Price 11 Waring (Warman) 10 Hill 9 Hall 1 Whyte 2 Wright 3 Wan (Giles) 4 Storey 5 Mountain 6 Scriven 7 Upton 8 Perry (C Barningham) Unused Subs Thomas, Smart