Eastleigh are Bowl-ed over

Eastleigh celebrate their Hampshire Bowl win

Eastleigh celebrate their Hampshire Bowl win

First published in Sport Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Rugby correspondent and sub-editor

Eastleigh’s steady climb through the county’s rugby ranks came to a climax when they claimed the Gales HSB Hampshire Bowl.

A close encounter against regular London SW3 rivals Ellingham & Ringwood was expected but Eastleigh’s desire and work-rate helped them to a 44-6 win.

Visitors Eastleigh got into their stride after an end-to-end start and built up a healthy 27-6 half-time lead.

They produced much of the same after the break to widen the gap but were made to defend their advantage over the last 15 minutes as battling Ellingham pinned them back in their own 22.

Fittingly, the final try came from Eastleigh skipper Russell Smith – who is stepping down after four years of captaincy – following a clinical break out of their own 22.

Smith said: “I’m over the moon; this is a perfect end to a perfect four years for me. All the hard work and training on cold, dark and wet nights has paid off.

“We finished third in the league and have won the Bowl, putting 40 points against a side that defeated us at the beginning of the season.

“Credit to Ellingham because it is difficult for anyone to play against a team on the boil and we certainly were today.”

It took just four minutes for Eastleigh to score as Paul Fudio crossed in the corner.

Eastleigh wing Jon Lynch struck with a penalty and opposite number Charlie Crockram answered with a couple before the visitors got into the groove.

Scrum half Sean Hayes weaved his way through the Es’ defence to place the ball down and Chris Cove created the best move of the first half when he collected a kick out of defence on the half-way line and split a static defence before off-loading to Rich O’Donnell to cross the line.

Eastleigh were five more points to the good within a minute as Cove sidestepped his way to touch down in the corner.

Again it was one-way traffic at the start of the second half.

Lynch looked as if he was about to touch down but managed an improvised overhead back pass as he was tackled and hooker Stu Mason followed up to ground the ball.

Eastleigh were securing every 50-50 ball and soon fed it out wide for wing Ash Holland to score Eastleigh’s sixth try.

Ringwood then had their best spell but Eastleigh proved they could defend as well as attack and denied the home side a dime. When they did break out they did it in style – Sam Prout leading the charge and captain Smith fed to complete the scoring.

Nine of Eastleigh’s points came from Jon Lynch’s boot and Phil Baldwin was named their Pipestock Man of the Match.

Eastleigh coach Andy Boyes said: “We played fantastically.

“It was an excellent finish to an excellent season and we want to push on from here.

“It was a fitting end to Russell’s captaincy with him getting the last try.”

Ellingham captain Duncan Soden said: “It is always disappointing to lose a cup final, but we must use this to build the foundations for next season.”

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