Hastings & Bexhill Rugby Club had targeted Saturday’s game as must win if they were to stand any chance of staying up.
But despite a positive start, H&B were beaten 24-10 at home to fourth-bottom Gillingham Anchorians in London Three South East.
H&B opened the scoring in the first few minutes. An attacking kick and chase saw the Anchorians winger caught near their line and bundled into touch.
A well-taken catch at the resulting lineout followed by several mauls allowed Mark Piotrowski to bully his way across the line. Tom Waring’s conversion attempt rebounded back off the crossbar, 5-0.
Alex Nichols was effective with his kicks, but the visitors were making good use of the boot as well and an Anchorians penalty slid past the post.
Another kick and chase from Anchorians had H&B deep in their red zone. After a not straight lineout, Anchorians opted for the scrum. A pick and go, and subsequent ruck led to the Anchorians scrum-half going over for a try near the posts. An easy conversion gave the visitors a 7-5 lead.
Both sides were in an attacking mood and only resolute defence stopped them from scoring.
A dangerous Anchorians ruck in front of the posts was stopped when Jimmy Adams stepped through the ruck and managed to kick the ball out of the scrum-half’s hands.
The excellent Paul Sandeman got within five metres of the line at the other end only for Anchorians to nick the ball and clear to halfway. The score remained 7-5 at half time.
H&B continued to attack after the restart, but several set moves by the backs with Dan Haddock joining the line were spoiled by sloppy handling or silly penalties in the subsequent rucks.
A great tackle from Alex Waring and an Eliot Parry ankle tap halted two dangerous Anchorians attacks, but a scrum 30 metres out gave the visitors the platform to break the line and score a converted try near the posts, 5-14.
The penalty count against H&B continued to mount. Every time they worked their way upfield they were penalised for holding on or lying on the ball. Nichols was carded and Anchorians kicked the resulting penalty, 5-17.
H&B never give up, however. An Anchorians clearance kick was fielded by Sandeman, who put in a high box kick. The chase by him and Chas Ackerley caught the visitors’ winger deep in their red zone. A backs move along the line and a neat grubber kick ended with Waring scoring, 10-17.
A quick penalty after Piotrowski was carded led to Anchorians going over for another converted try.
H&B: Roche, Foord-Paton, McDonough, Adams, Piotrowski, James, Sandeman, S. McManus, Steadman, Nichols, Sills, Parry, T. Waring, Ackerley, Haddock. Subs: R. McManus, A. Waring, Harbord.