FIRSTS GRIND OUT RESULT AGAINST BURGESS HILL
2 WINS FROM 2!!!
With Burgess Hill being an established Sussex one team we always knew this would be a tough test and give us a clearer indication of how we would fare in this league this year. To make it more difficult we had seven starters from the previous week missing and forty players missing throughout the club this week. To get two competitive sides out with that many missing was testament to the depth of the squads we have at the club this year and massive praise for the guys who stepped up and put their bodies on the line for the teams.
On a glorious afternoon at Saint Hill, with the pitches in superb condition, we got off to a great start as Waite chased down and caught the kick off and made yards into the Hill twenty two. Strong close runs from the forwards forced the Hill defence into retreat and it looked like we would score. However, the first of many errors for the day saw us knock the ball on and turn the ball over. It wasn't long however before we were on the scoreboard as an infringement at the breakdown gave us the opportunity to kick for goal and Swadling obliged. Soon after Hill hit back with a penalty of their own. After twenty minutes we had been in control with good phase play creating good opportunities for the backs to run. However, to many handling errors, poor passes and penalties meant scoring opportunities disappeared. From one attacking play Hill strayed offside and Swadling kicked the points to put us back in front. From the kick off strong running from the forwards set up good position. The ball was moved well with Waite making an excellent break before offloading to Tucker. Tucker beat two men and continued his run before being tackled near the twenty two. The ball was recycled quickly and with the defence retreating we moved the ball wide and Montagu finished off in the corner. Swadling kicked the conversion from the touchline with an excellent effort. Hill started to get a foothold in the game through the scrum. We did well in the scrum with so many missing and took our medicine at times without giving away too many penalties. We continued to create opportunities but the final pass or decision remained elusive. A solid scrum on our ten metre line should have provided a good platform for building an attack. However, as Tucker picked the ball up the Hill Fijian scrum half stole the ball off him and ran in under the posts for their first try of the day. The try was converted. Further penalties and errors kept building pressure on ourselves and giving up possession. Our defence remained outstanding and the work rate of Burger, Arnold and Thomas in the back row was phenomenal. Hill kicked another penalty to bring the scores level with a couple of minutes of the half left. A strong finish saw another missed opportunity for a try come and go and we had to settle for a penalty converted by Swadling to lead 16-13 at half time. Lots of positives in terms of how much we created in the half. However, disappointment in the number of handling errors and penalties given away and a learning process for the players in the realisation that Burgess Hill didn't have a single phase of play in our twenty two but came away with 13 points from the half.
The start of the second half became more and more scrappy with Burgess Hills Fijian lads looking to break the play up and look for broken field opportunities. Our indiscretions caught up with us with Thomas receiving a yellow card. We remained strong and organised in defence with a massive tackle count all round. However, we failed to gain a single completed turnover in the whole game. Good attacking play through Swadling and Carter set up a great position and when Hill infringed Swadling took the opportunity to kick the three points. Hill now had their best period of the game with a couple of prolonged periods in our half. From one set of phases in our twenty two. A poor wide pass from one their players was intercepted by Waite who made some yards before offloading to Carr who broke before passing to Anderson, who got a finger tip on it and knocked it on, playing to the whistle he picked the ball up and kicked through and while most stopped Swadling reacted and chased it down for the touchdown. Swadling dusted himself off to kick the conversion. Soon after an excellent break from Swadling who then linked with Carter and Anderson before flicking the ball up for Stokes resulted in what we thought was an excellent score only for the referee to bring it back for a knock on. On reviewing the match video it is clear that the referee got these two decisions wrong but you have to play to the whistle and take the rough with the smooth. Burgess Hill came back strong and gained a penalty kick which was slotted. They then had a sustained spell in our twenty two. We defended solidly but eventually the pressure tolled and they scored out wide. The kicker missed the kick and we still lead by two. For the final ten minutes of the game we managed the game well keeping possession and playing in the right areas. A good catch a drive lineout saw the time up and the ball was kicked out for the win. With everything take into consideration it was a great win and solid performance. Some excellent performances today with special mentions to Swadling, Waite, Burger, Taylor, but man of the match went to Toogood for his shift up front having not played for two years with a knee injury.
Head Coach Rhodri Lewis said,'It was a tough day today and we didn't make it easy for ourselves with our error and penalty count. I am so proud of the boys who stepped in, some at late notice, and did a fantastic job. We had to take some punishment up front today as we were missing so many and hats off to Taylor and Toogood who put a huge shift in. I felt we probably created enough to go on a score some more tries but our final pass at times wasn't good enough. There was something like 30 scrums in the game which tells you everything really. Our defence was good but its disappointing to give away as many points as we did when particularly in the first half they didn't create anything. We will have to learn from that and stop giving away penalties and territory. There is a huge amount of potential in this team and we saw some glimpses of it today. The character to grind it out at the end makes me very happy and shows me that when we get it right we will be a real threat.'
Next week we travel to Barns Green looking to maintain our unbeaten start to the season and we would love to have your support.