First win brutal game against strong Ditchling team
Firsts secure top spot baring huge points swing!
The top two sides in the league met on Saturday, with EG looking to cement top spot and Ditchling looking to close the gap. The two teams are fairly evenly matched with excellent players on both teams. With conditions set fair apart from a blustery wind and a huge crowed up for a great game it looked like good conditions for rugby. EG started the stronger of the two with an excellent kick off reclaim giving us great field position early on. Good phase play and strong running from Tom Sandys gave us our first score after 3 minutes. Cooke failed with the conversion. Ditchling, always a strong pack started to assert some pressure at scrum time and at the breakdown and a few errors and penalties were creeping in. Both teams started to get frustrated with the referees interpretation and advantages and the ferocity of the match went up a notch or two. An excellent kick return from Ben Whiteman and sublime pass got the ball to Ben Swadling who arched round the outside of his man and put his foot on the gas to score our second try of the day. Cooke converted. Ditchling hit straight back and reclaimed the kick off and whilst some waited for a whistle the big second row hit a great line on the ten to find a hole ran through and stepped the on rushing Ben Whiteman to score under the posts. The extras were added to make it 12-7. Two early changes with Mark Oliver and Ross Perry going off. Seam Morgan and Charlie Lear on. The game continued to be scrappy for the remainder of the half and rising tension on both sides at the lack of decisions going each teams way was causing the temperature to rise. It spilled over after Conor Leggat saw yellow for a kick and a huge pile up ensued. Jordan Tucker replaced Frankie Robinson who rolled his ankle in the melee. Everyone calmed down and we got on with the game. Ditchling finished the half the stronger and scored just before half time. It wasn't converted. With eight minutes of the sin binning to go we knew the first period of the second half was going to be a test. We spoke about calmness in decision making and accuracy in what we were doing. We spoke about working with the referee to get a better grasp on what he wanted.
The first twenty minutes of the second half was pretty much all Ditchling. We defended unbelievably well and repelled attack after attack with great discipline. Leggat returning half way through that twenty minutes gave us extra energy and we changed Steven Cooke for Ryan Foster in the backline. We started to get back into the game and The last twenty minutes of the game was pretty much all us as we camped in the Ditchling half. A couple of opportunities came and went before excellent phase play set up an opportunity for Tucker to snipe around the fringe and score under the posts, the place erupted. Swadling kicked the conversion. Good carries from Sandys, Hulst and Leggat gave us strong field position. The ball got moved through the hands to Whiteman out wide who appeared to knock on in the tackle. The officials said it was ripped out and Whiteman reacted the quickest to get the touchdown. Swadling missed the conversion. With about a minute to go Foster hit a hard line and was tackled hitting the floor hard. Clearly out as he hit the floor all the players around him from both sides reacted brilliantly and got him into the recovery position and got his gum shield out. The referee called time. He continued to struggle for breath for several minutes before coming around and seeming ok before going off in an ambulance to get checked out. A few weeks out to recover from a concussion and hopefully he will be back for the final at the end of April. A brutal and bruising game with plenty of sore bodies on both teams. Both teams will feel it could have been a slightly less brutal day with a better managed breakdown area. However, two very good sides giving everything they could to get the result. The result means that no other team can finish above EG. Barns Green could end on the same points as EG if we lose our last two games and they win their last three.
Head Coach Rhodri Lewis said,' We had some spells today when we played some excellent rugby and I felt we had scoring opportunities whenever we got the ball wide. The boys up front put in a huge shift today against a good scrummaging side and we secured enough ball to utilise. We had to defend for long periods today which is something that hasn't happened that often this year and we came through it brilliantly. The work rate of the likes of Burger, Arnold, Hulst and Bridges in the tackle and contact area was superb and I felt we matched their players their well. Another great performance in the centres from Sandys and Swadling who are building an excellent partnership. I thought in the second half the energy that Tucker bought to the pitch gave us a huge impetus and in the end was decisive.'
We have Crowborough away this week and a victory will totally confirm the title. Big thanks to the huge crowd on Saturday, it was great support and really appreciated by me and the guys.