THIS had always been billed as the league decider and, with glorious conditions, the scene was set for another must-win game for Hellingly against the second in the league – and the only remaining team that could overhaul them and deny their quest for the league and cup double.
The game started at a fast pace, with Hellingly eager to disrupt Hastings possession. Unfortunately a clash of heads left Charlie Milner injured and caused the first of many stoppages as the teams struggled to adapt to the referee’s instructions.
An improbable 19 penalties in the first 25 minutes scuppered any hope of continuity but Jack Smith inspired by his first ever senior try was on hand to complete a try scoring move involving forwards and backs and show this was no fluke (5-0).
Hastings then finally managed to convert one of several penalty attempts (5-3). But this just energised Hellingly and they responded with a purple patch where they dominated possession and had the defence scrambling left and right, before Milner touched down in the corner (10-3).
From the restart fumbles led to a further Hastings penalty (10-6). Again, this only spurred on the Hellingly pack, who dominated in the line out and, through a rolling maul, skipper Mark Harris went over for a try converted by David Searle for 17-6.
This was followed by a penalty to Hellingly as the Hastings player tackled Milner illegally high to stop an almost certain try; this resulted in three points for Hellingly and a yellow card for Hastings (20-6). Further tries by Hellingly backs Ian Padgett and Tom Manktelow were just reward and confirmed a dominant Hellingly lead at half time of 30-6.
The second half started with Hastings attempting to get a foothold in the game but pressure defence from Hellingly denied them space and finally clever work by Dave Sands forced the intercept pass not once but twice for him to complete two 60-metre runs to score – and single-handedly deflate the opposition, while handing Hellingly an unassailable lead and league title at 44-6.
With Hellingly running amock it was the turn of the forwards to turn the screw on their neighbours and, from a line-out 20 metres out, the pack drove a rolling maul at pace over the Hastings line for a 49-6 lead.
The proceedings then took a turn for the worse as a demoralised and dejected Hastings, frustrated by Hellingly’s dominance, engaged in some silly handbags that boiled over and the contest was brought to an unsatisfactorary end.
The final score of 49-6 underlined the Hellingly dominance in this division and they will end the season as double winners of cup and league.
The determination of Hellingly to succeed this season has been immense as they have been driven on to realise their ambitions. There are just two games to go until the end of the season and already the team are looking at what they can do to improve for next year as coach Nigel Gossedge promised to demand more as they look to build on this year’s success.
Man of the match was top try scorer Dave Sands.