Reality hits as errors cost firsts victory!
Saturday saw the top two match up at East Grinstead as we welcomed Hellingly. We knew Hellingly were on the up as a club and expected a combination of a large back and some quick backs. We prepared really well with the warm up the best of the year in terms of focus. It was clear the players realised this would be a proper test.
We started the game well with some good forays into the Hellingly half. However, the story of what would follow could be summed up after five minutes. Following an error whilst on attack we gave up possession and allowed Hellingly to gain field position. From an attacking scrum the eight passed out to nine who passed to the eleven running on the angle who seemed to have miles of space and coasted under for the first score of the day. This was the first soft try conceded but sadly wouldn't be the last. The conversion was missed. We hit straight back with strong carries from Andrews and Perry before yet another unforced error coughed up possession and Hellingly worked the ball wide and made some excellent yards up the pitch. From the resulting territory Hellingly had an attacking scrum. The eight picked and went and was tackled well by Swadling with the ball spilling out in the process. Their ten picked up the loose ball and crashed over for their second try. EG felt hard done by here with both the open side flanker obstructing our tackler and the clear knock missed which were very obvious on review of the match video. Again the conversion was missed. For the remainder of the half we continued to camp in the Hellingly half and put together some excellent phases of play. However, seemingly every time we got an attacking line out or position an unforced error or turn over would occur. Which was incredible frustrating. We kept ourselves in the game with penalties on 16 minutes and 27 minutes through Swadling and continued to dominate possession and territory for the half. Chances came and went with some poor execution and inaccurate passing and it wasn't until the final minute of the half that we got our first try of the game. Again the opportunity actually came from an error. From the resulting scrum we pushed them off their own ball and Andrews picked up from the base and offloaded to Tucker who offloaded to Swadling who powered through a couple of defenders to score. He wasn't able to add the extras with the conversion but we went in ahead 11-10.
At half time we talked about using the possession and territory that we had and stop coughing up possession so easily. We knew that we were beating them both up front and in wide areas but that accuracy was costing us dearly.
We continued to dominate in the early part of the second half with great carries from Waite and Bridges making excellent yards. We continued to disrupt and turnover their scrum with the eight constantly under pressure at the back. However, we hadn't improved our accuracy and opportunities went begging. It wasn't until the 60th minute that we scored again. Excellent work from the forwards created an opportunity on the blindside for the backs. Finally a little bit of composure with great hands from McCallum and Crawley-Moore to put Waite in the corner. Swadling kicked an excellent conversion. Hellingly came back strong but our defence was excellent, when the referee called held up and everyone stopped for a scrum. The ball then squirted out and the scrum half passed it out with the winger strolling over to the bemusement of 28 other players on the pitch who had stopped for a scrum. A lesson in playing to the whistle. The conversion was again missed. Minutes later a knock on in our own half fell for their ten who put a grubber kick through which took a huge deflection and wrong footed McCallum. The chasing Hellingly support put him under pressure and managed to regain the ball and score. Again the conversion was missed. Six minute to go and we were now behind 20-18. Fantastic work from the kick off with Waite regathering the ball. A couple of big carries and good rucks lead to a penalty. For some reason we chose to kick for the corner rather than kicking for goal, a decision we need to make better next time. From the line out we set it up well and created an opportunity but Hellingly held firm. We went again and looked like a chance had come out wide. However, the final pass was very wayward and went straight out of play. Hellingly kept the ball for the final minute before kicking it out to take the win.
Head Coach Rhodri Lewis said, ' The players are pretty gutted today as they did so much well today and let opportunities go begging through basic errors. We created lots of opportunities today but didn't make our dominance tell with points. We also coughed up way to much possession through unforced errors and turnovers and whilst we feel three of the tries were soft Hellingly were very clinical with the opportunities they had. We know that we have not clicked yet this season in any of the games we have played and there is still huge strides for us to make as we find third fourth and fifth gear. We can only do that if we increase our accuracy and stop making so many basic handling errors. If that had been the case today Helllingly wouldn't have had any possession or territory. Fair play to them they ran out worthy winners and finished their opportunities well. I was really pleased with how the pack performed today particularly at scrum time and we will continue to get stronger as more players return from injury. Today for us is a massive learning curve both in terms of being clinical with opportunities but also with decision making. We had the opportunity to kick for goal late on and chose not to. We have to learn from that and forget about bonus points and make sure that we win games.'
No games next week before we travel to Uckfield in two weeks time.