And so we return to the Pilot Field where Hastings United now play in all-white and the Ryman League has turned into the Bostik League. Clearly, following the Evo-stik North and South leagues it is essential that this level of football is sponsored by adhesives. Smarter people than me would make a joke about stickiness. I’ll leave that to the brains. All I can say is that this was a tense, rather than good, game that Lewes thoroughly deserved to win and so, even though we might comment on some aspects, it’s hard to begrudge them their 2-1 win.
The first goal came in the first minute. Bouwe Bosma putting Lewes ahead from an attack on the right that left Hastings all over the shop. Moments later they could have scored again via the same route. In fact, every time they tried it the hosts looked vulnerable. Hastings equalised through an eleventh minute penalty. But nobody had really settled down even by the time Ollie Rowes saw red for a lunging challenge ten minutes before the break. Hastings down to ten men ran hard without really threatening any more (I don’t think there was a genuine save from the Lewes goalie in the second half) but Lewes’ greater assurance didn’t translate into dominance. Their winning goal came within twelve minutes of the restart and they really should have added to it but the second half, like the first, didn’t actually feature that much football.
What the 699 watching (highest in the division by over 400) saw instead had plenty of guts and passion, and plenty of controversy too. To be honest, that’s a lot more fun that technical majesty even if the end product was jagged rather than coherent. So this was all quite fun even if you’d not necessarily recommend anyone to watch it again if the opportunity presented itself.
I went along with the older, autistic, boy. He only once had to comment on my swearing so clearly I was better behaved than usual. I brought along the camera and the photos are here.
Welcome to rugby union in Sussex Division Four (East). We’re so far down what passes for a pyramid here that it’s hard to work out what level we’re talking about. At a rough guess it would take something like eleven direct promotions and a thousand pages of red tape for a team down here to make it all the way to the top. Today, all anyone was really bothered about was whether the visitors would make it all the way to fifteen. They didn’t have even enough men and relied on a fair few (estimates varied) from the Hastings areas to get up to strength – and even then needed the Cinque Ports touch judge to step up to the plate when fatigue meant more numbers were required. It is to everyone’s credit that whilst it was expectedly ragged at times, there was a pretty decent game of rugby to watch at all.
St Leonards Cinque Ports won 31-10. I know this because the twitter feed told me. I lost count when I didn’t see the indications following a couple of conversions. The man who runs the twitter feed also runs the line, leads the training, takes match notes and, today, gets to play some rugby for his club’s opponents. There are hundreds like him in all sports up and down the country every weekend. That doesn’t diminish the individual effort – rather, to me, it shows what an under appreciated army we have sustaining sport in this country.
The match was a bit odd. Lewes probably had the majority of possession, almost certainly had the majority of territory, and yet were never really that close on the scoreboard. Ports had a well organised defence (although a team who’d met each other before would have stretched them more) and some excellent quick breakers. That was the difference.
It was a lovely day to watch some rugby. Obviously my solution to the numbers problem would have been to get them to drop to 13 a side and cap the phases allowed before losing possession at six but even allowing for the obvious deficiencies of insisting on too many flankers there was some good football on display at times. The sun shone brightly and it was pleasantly warm. The match was hosted by Hastings & Bexhill and it’s the first time I’ve been up there and not immediately been afraid that I was about to blown from Kansas into Oz.
All in all, a very nice afternoon. I took some photos (here). I may be back. After all, someone has to be there to see St Leonards Cinque Ports make all those promotions until they can face Wasps on equal terms. Just so long as they never ask me to make up the numbers …
Boxing Day football has a charm. I know I’m not alone in this opinion because today’s game was watched by 702 people, which is more than double Hastings United’s average gate. And not all of the extra folk were from Lewes. Which is just as well because what could have been a proper festive fight for Sussex supremacy was, for most of its duration, just a mite one-sided.
It finished 3-0 with all of the scoring over and done inside the first fifty minutes. Hastings took the lead through a smasher from the edge of the box from Harry Stannard. There was a decent bit of ebb and flow to the game from then on but it was definitely Hastings who were getting the better chances and growing in confidence. When Lewes gave up a free kick not too far out which was then converted beautifully, combined with the second yellow meaning a red that went with it, it meant they had a mountain to climb in the second half. But they never got the chance. Jack Harris finished a sweeping move on 49 minutes and, with only occasional sparks from then on, that was that.
Hastings showboated a little in the second half but never so much that Lewes wanted to kick them too hard. They could have had a couple more. It was only really towards the end that the sky blue clad visitors started to click in any meaningful way and, by then, it was all far, far too late.
So, for Hastings, a pretty successful day and a nice run of form heading into 2017. Lewes will look to bounce back at home to Three Bridges on New Year’s Eve. The two sides next meet at the end of April and there’s every chance there could be the serious matter of play off football to fight over. Let’s hope that one’s more of a contest.