EG1 31 - 8 Barns Green
1st XV Sign Off in the Sunshine
The final day of the league season saw the 1st XV travel to Barns Green looking to put in a performance worthy of league champions. Anything other than a win for Barns Green meant that they would more than likely be handing over the runners up spot to Ditchling.
With a shortage of centres; concussion laws ruling out Ryan Foster and a trip to Twickenham for Tom Sandys, Ben Swadling
moved into the 12 channel and young winger Robbie Poole slotted in at 13. There was a very familiar look to the rest of the team where a physical pack was complimented perfectly by plenty of pace in the backs.
The first thing that took us by surprise was the Duke of Edinburgh style hike through the trees to get to the pitch. Luckily we had a couple of tents, tins of beans and plenty of water to keep us going! It was to our relief that when we eventually found the pitch that there was a keg of beer on the touchline; unfortunately that was not a league winning gift from our hosts but for their VP’s day.
We did not get off to a great start, conceding far too much ground with missed tackles and often found ourselves lacking accuracy in attack. As with a lot of games this season even when we have played poorly we have kept our structure and this has been enough to create scoring opportunities. Around 20 minutes in some simple phase play and patience created an overlap on the left which Connor Leggat
was on hand to finish and with Steven Cooke
adding the extras we had a 7 point lead.
Barns Green had had the majority of possession and were rightly aggrieved to be behind and they pushed on and soon took the lead following a good try scored in the left corner and slotting a penalty only minutes later. James Stokes
had to take an enforced rest after a collision which lead to the host’s try which meant a first 1st XV appearance for Oli Brown
out on the right wing.
Knowing that we had not even got out of 2nd gear yet a few home truths from Captain, Mark Oliver
and Fly Half, Steven Cooke
, kicked our boys in to action and from here on out we began to dominate the game. With 10 minutes left in the half Ben Whiteman
looked to have over ran his line but somehow managed to gather the ball from his calf and go in under the posts unopposed to give Cooke an easy conversion for a 14-8 lead which we would take in to half time.
Not the best 40 minute period of the season by any means but a decent score line to build on nonetheless. The second half brought a performance worthy of league champions. We were clinical, tight in defence, efficient in attack and played the percentages very well. Strong running from Ross Perry
, Bertram Beanland, Dave Bridges
and Daan Hulst
set a great platform for Morgan Burger
, Mark Oliver
and Connor Leggat
to hit a second wave all half. John Peaty
was as calculated as ever in the lineout giving Frank Robinson
clean ball throughout. Cooke began to get his backs moving with Swadling and Poole running the tight lines, allowing plenty of space out wide for Josh Carr
, Whiteman and Brown to make the telling breaks.
We soon extended our lead when Hulst found some space to the right of the posts and crashed over a would-be tackler to score. The conversion was undercooked but momentum was definitely behind us. Josh Carr
continued his try scoring form by finishing off wide on the left after some straight hands from the backs; there were 2 more runners outside of him but the hands had been that slick that the overlap was not needed. Cooke found his range again to make the score line 26-8.
Another trademark Leggat try followed, finding himself at home in the centres channel he skipped one challenge before dotting down for the final score of the day. With the conversion missed the game ended 31-8 in favour of the league winners.
Taking on touchline responsibilities for the afternoon due to Head Coach Rhodri Lewis being unavailable, Martyn Ansboro
said “I could not have asked for anymore from the lads today. Mark captained the side superbly and took control of all of the vocal work. We know we were under par in the first half but we certainly made up for it in the second. I was threatening to bring myself on at one point but luckily they upped their game! The boys deserve to celebrate tonight after a long hard season. We may have secured the title a game or 2 ago but we have full respect for this league and wanted to go out the way we have played all season. We now look forward to the cup final against Midhurst on the 22nd.”