Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, once stated that the advent of Saturday always seemed to catch the Metropolitan Railway by surprise.
In a similar fashion, it appears in recent seasons that the advent of the first league Saturday catches Hastings & Bexhill RFC by surprise!
Certainly they appeared rather undercooked at the start of their campaign in London Three South East against visitors Horsham, who handed out a salutary welcome to the higher level by running in eight tries in a 50-17 victory.
Ambitious Horsham have strengthened their side from last year which pushed for honours and can call on a settled squad of players and a pack who bossed most games.
H&B, on the other hand, were looking for new combinations in the midfield backs. The starting line-up saw Piers Claughton restored at scrum-half after last season’s spell at centre, with Bruce Steadman, a wing selection last season, tried outside him as the influential Kit Claughton is not currently available.
This gave the back division a rather uncertain look which would have limited the home side’s chances of success at best, but with their pack heavily outweighed, made for a difficult day at the office for the Blue and Whites.
Both sides looked ring rusty at the outset, but into the second quarter, Horsham discovered they were pushing at an open door and a flood of scores followed with their no.8 particularly impressive.
The home miseries were added to when Claughton was yellow carded. H&B offered little threat in the first half, while the opposition mirrored many of the H&B days of last season by notching up the bonus point before half time.
The third quarter promised more of the same with flanker Jason Holewell given a 10-minute spell on the sidelines and the visitors performing with increasing skill and confidence, producing one try executed in a fashion a Premiership side would have been proud of which drew applause from the home spectators. But suddenly all changed.
With skipper Jimmy Adams and replacement scrum-half Matt Harbord urging on the pack and backs remembering how to kick from the hand, H&B wrested back the initiative. Horsham went off the boil with some petulant behaviour incurring two yellow cards.
The blue and white shirts were suddenly showing the skill and determination which had brought them into this division and well-worked tries duly followed from Calvin Crosby-Clarke, Mark Piotrowski and Tim Sills. Thus all was not the doom and gloom which the scoreline suggests.
H&B: T. Waring; Campbell, Crosby-Clarke, Haddock, Sills; Steadman, Claughton; McDonough, Foord-Paton, McManus; Sewell, Adams; Butler, Piotrowski, Holewell. Replacements: Harbord, A. Waring, Hanagarth.