Under-strength Ports show courage under pressure

Newick RFC 34
St Leonards Cinque Ports 15
(HT 19-5)

An un-seasonally warm day greeted Ports as they arrived at higher level Sussex 2 club Newick for the last of their pre-season friendlies.

Ports were affected by a number of injuries and unavailability and travelled to Newick with only 14 players. Those who did make the journey also found many playing in unfamiliar positions, second rowers Gavin Thomas and Kim Wan found themselves in the front row and the back row was made up of a trio more usually found in the backs. Murray Warman, Rob Mayer and Luke Loving-Price.

The game started slowly, a number of scrummages and some bobbly ball meant neither side really got hold. Newick found some fluency and scored but rugged work by Josh Storey at the breakdown and Mayer in the loose slowed the attacks down.

Newick was the better organised side and it took last minute tackles by Rob Fink and Warman to prevent another score.

Ports looked to the counter attack and Luke Barningham made a strong break, and Henry Hill was unlucky not to put Fink in at the corner before Warman made a barrelling break. He was pulled down close to the line but his excellent offload found Loving-Price who dived over.

Some ill-discipline found Ports on the back foot and Newick made a well worked score. A third weak try gave Newick a lead. Ports began to find greater fluency, Mayer carried well and his stabbing kick was unlucky not to end in a score.

Matt Standen drove forward, and joined Storey in creating a nuisance at the ruck. Wan also caused problems at the ruck with his physicality.

The half changed and Newick scored a break-away try before Ports grabbed hold of possession and the game for a period. Mike Hutchins and Hill started to unlock the backs, Barningham was a darting presence whereas the back-trio played power rugby.

Newick broke back again before Mayer made a strong run from his 22. He fixed his opposite number and fed Warman who ran 70 metres to score his first of the season.

Hill and Hutchins used their boot well, and from a scrum Paul Smart fed Warman who split the defence to score his second.

Newick had the game won but wanted to stretch the score. They hammered at the Ports line but Hill made a number of brutal tackles, and Mayer physically repelled the attacks.

The game came to end as Ports stole the ball after isolating the attacker. Coach Smart was realistic in his summary of the match: “A good, hard pre-season contest. We started slowly but picked up the pace and attacked well.”

Many players performed well. Storey was a defensive rock, tackling solidly and counter-rucking constantly. Mayer was a physical presence, attacking well and bumping off would be tackler but E-Heat man of the match went to Henry Hill for a strong attacking performance and some rugged defensive work.

Squad 15 Hutchins 14 Steele 13 L Barningham 12 Standen 11 Fink 10 Hill 9 Smart 1 Guest player 2 Thomas 3 Wan 4 C Barningham 5 Storey 6 Loving-Price 7 Warman 8 Mayer

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