St Leonards CP 17
After Ports record breaking win against Sittingbournes 3rd XV, the return fixture was a very different experience as Sittingbourne brought a strengthened and combative team.
The early exchanges were brutal but no side could take control. Max Olujobi who the opposition had identified as a danger man was up in their faces, and George Upton made a number of crushing tackles, he was also a danger at the breakdown.
Ports dominated territory, Mike Hutchins and Murray Warman both made stabbing kicks but Olujobi and Joe Whitehill-James could not dot down.
Sittingbourne occasionally threatened to break out, Whitehill-James, Olujobi and Josh Storey all made key tackles. Veteran Paul Smart controlled the breakdown superbly, he unleashed the backs and managed the defence superbly.
Ill-discipline allowed Sittingbourne to break through, a try seemed certain but Upton was limpet like at the breakdown. Murray Warman broke away and his counter-attack was unlucky not to lead to a try.
The half was ticking to a close, and still no side had broken the line. A big clearance by Whitehill-James found Ports back in Sittingbourne territory. Ports hammered at the door, Matt Standen and Upton came close before Storey picked up from a ruck and crashed over. Luke Barninghm converted well.
Ports made a number of changes, including the first start for over a year of Rob Mayer.
Sittingbourne was stronger, Upton and Ash Mountain needed to make big tackles but Sittingbourne found space in their backs and equalised.
A strong kick off by Henry Hill was not fielded and Josh Clarke making a guest appearance from Hastings & Bexhill drove at the line. Ports could not break down a desperate defence but Barningham kicked a penalty.
Ill-discipline allowed Sittingbourne back in Ports territory and a well worked rolling maul found them over the line. Ports were stung,
Hill released the pressure but the Sittingbourne winger could not field the kick and Warman scooped up the loose ball and slid over in the wing. Sittingbourne came back again, desperate defence at the breakdown kept them out but from a solid scrum a superb pass split the Ports defence and let Sittingbourne over the line.
Smart captured the side’s feelings after the game: “A hard fought and utterly brilliant game. Toe to toe, nothing in it. We were undone by Sittingbourne in the last minute with a stunning cut-out pass”.
A number of players stood out, Storey disrupted their line out throughout and scored an excellent try, Smart pulled the strings superbly but E-Heat man of the match was George Upton with a display of superb tackling, excellent rucking and a last ditch tackle of superb quality that will live in the memory of all watching
Squad 15 Barningham 14 Whitehill-James (Mayer) 13 Warman 12 Standen (Loving-Price) 11 Olujobi (Whitehill-James) 10 Hutchins (Hill) 9 Smart (Hall) 1 Whyte 2 Wright (Clarke) 3 Gentry (Giles) 4 Mountain 5 Storey (Thomas) 6 Perry 7 Upton 8 Ingram (Barrowclough)