Mature Ports win case for defence

St Leonards CP – 18
Rye – 7
(HT 10-7)

Rugby is often a free-flowing game, but sometimes like today an arm wrestle between two evenly matched sides can provide real spectacle.

With both sides evenly matched in the league in the opening seconds Rye strung together a slick set of offloads and support runs to score a try within moments of the kick off.

Ports dusted themselves off. Tom Ingram, Greg Montier and Luke Loving-Price all gave some go forward, but Rye were solid in defence. At the ruck Ports were competitive with Loving-Price and Mark Wright competing well for the ball, but Rye gave away a number of penalties and Luke Barningham slotted one to chip away at the Rye lead.

Ports were also competitive at the set-piece, Jody Freeman and Tierlen Behan offered go forward at the scrum and Murray Warman competed well aerially.

Ports came close from a number of secure scrums, before Steve Hall pulled the ball out of a scrum under pressure. Mike Hutchins offered superb link play, before Montier cut a dangerous line to crash over. Barningham slotted the conversion.

Steve tidies
Steve Hall distributing from the scrum.

Ports controlled the first half. Freeman was a battering ram and Warman and Montier both stretched the defence. Hutchins offered opportunities to the backs, Will Steele was unlucky not to run in an interception. Matt Standen also carried the hard yards, but Rye showed a structured defence and held out the Ports big runners. Ports did crash at the line, but were withheld throughout.

As the second half turned around Ports found themselves in a position where historically they had lost narrow leads – but this was a new mature Ports. The booming boot of Hutchins relieved the pressure that Rye began to apply, but Ports also found some meaningful ball of their own.

Loving-Price won a counter ruck and Hutchins spread to the speedy Max Olujobi. The winger seemed likely to score before a high tackle cut him down. Ports shifted to an eight man line-out after Hutchins had found touch from the penalty, a well-worked rolling maul allowed Tom Ingram to crash over.

Ports found themselves under increasing pressure, Montier and Warman made key tackles. Despite the pressure Ports withheld the Rye attacks, clever work at the breakdown and the increasingly influential boot of Hutchins prevented them dragging their way back into the game.

Ports occasionally broke away, Ross Kearney made huge yardage and Montier found it increasingly easy to break the line. Another strong break by Kearney put Rye under pressure and their work at the breakdown gave another penalty. This time Hutchins slotted from an angle to increase the lead to 11 points.

With the game under control Rye still looked to run the ball but Ports maintained the stronger of the two defences to end the game in a position of strength they had maintained for the majority of the game.

Coach Paul Smart was effusive in his praise for both sides: “It was the best Rye side I’ve seen in a long time. Their defence was aggressive, but we commanded the game in every area. In every position from 1 to 15”.

The impressive win saw a number of strong performances. Luke Loving-Price was dogged at the break down and tackle. Greg Montier was a line-breaking runner throughout, but E-Heat man of the match was Mike Hutchins. The playmaker was key in link play, solid in defence and offered relief through his powerful boot. He was also nerveless in slotting the penalty to secure the game”

15 L Barningham 14 Olujobu 13 Hutchins 12 Standen (Kearney) 11 Steele 10 Hill 9 Hall 1 Freeman 2 Wright 3 Behan (Wan) 4 Montier 5 Storey 6 Loving-Price (C Barningham) 7 Warman 8 Ingram Unused Subs: Thomas, Smart

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