Firsts win Sussex Plate
Double secured with victory over Midhurst
We travelled to Chichester on Saturday looking to round off a brilliant season by beating Midhurst to win the Sussex Plate and complete a league a cup double for the first team. We left early with the club looking fantastic for the sunshine sevens weekend. The mood on the bus was relaxed but there was a focus in the players eyes, no one wanted all the hard work of the past nine months to go to waste. We arrived early and watched a bit of the Sussex Bowl competition before focussing on our own final. Not being on the main pitch at Chichester was a slight frustration as it meant we were on a narrower pitch than we would have hoped for. Warm up done and some final words of wisdom from the coaching staff about clear heads and matching the intensity.
Five weeks back we had put a big score on Midhurst in the league but with the bulk of the points coming in the second half we knew it was always going to be a tight game early on. This was very much the case and with Midhurst boosted by the return of some players from injury and unavailability the early exchanges were pretty even. We started to get some good phases going and the forwards including Ross Perry, Dave Bridges and James Funnell were carrying well. After two strong carries from the forwards the ball was moved swiftly through the hands out to Josh Carr in the wide channel. He showed good pace and footwork to beat his man and touchdown in the corner. Cooke converted for the extra two points. This seemed to spark Midhurst into life and they camped in our half for the next five minutes or so. From an attacking line out five metres out Funnell was adjudged to have collapsed the maul deliberately and was shown a yellow card. From the resulting line out Midhurst got their first score of the day. The conversion was missed.
The game ebbed and flowed with us probably just about edging out the possession stats. After 25 minutes great spoling work from Frankie Robinson at the breakdown caused the ball to shot out the back of the ruck. He reacted the quickest to kick through and gave chase. He managed to get to the bouncing ball first and stumble over the line for our second try of the day. Cooke secured the extras. The last fifteen minutes of the first half we started to play with a bit more authority and started to get cleaner quicker possession. Conor Leggat, Dan Arnold and Daan Hulst where dominating the breakdown and Mark Oliver and John Peaty securing great ball at the lineout. From strong phase play we once again moved the ball wide to Carr. He looked like he was about to score in the corner when the covering defender appeared to take him out high. The referee consulted his assistant and awarded a penalty try and a yellow card. Cooke converted. We had a couple of chances to extend our lead before half time but the final pass didn't quite go to hand.
Our half time message was about maintain our intensity levels and using the wide channels more often. Fresh legs with Beanland on for Bridges and Burger for Arnold in the pack. In the second half our centre partnership of Tom Sandys and Ben Swadling came into the game even more with great carries and moving the ball wide. However, our field possession was lost on a number of occasions through silly errors and penalties. This meant the rhythm of the first 20 minutes of the second half was very disjointed. This was broken with the move of the game. A good clean lineout on the half way line was moved quickly to the backs. good dummy lines held the defence and Cooke found Swadling who hit a great line through two defenders on about the ten metre line. With the full back in front of him and two men outside, he committed the defender and slipped the pass to Whiteman to score. Cooke missed the conversion. Dodd replaced Carr on the wing and Stokes replaced Whiteman at full back, Mercer replaced Robinson at scrum half.
Some strong scrummaging went unrewarded as the referee felt we had infringed and the game went back to being scrappy. With ten minutes to go Midhurst scored again to give them a chance. However, we showed real maturity and ground out the last ten minutes well maintaining possession and playing in the right areas. Finally, the whistle came and the players, staff and supporters could celebrate.
Head Coach Rhodri Lewis reflecting on the win and the season said,' What a great day for the club, these players and everyone else involved. It wasn't our best performance of the season but that doesn't matter in a final and we got over the line. Midhurst gave us a tough game today and I am delighted with the way we came through it. We had a few moments of class today when we moved the ball out wide but mostly it was a day for the purists with a lot of dog work done up front. The work rate of the likes of Ross Perry, Daan Hulst, Dan Arnold and Jim Funnell was relentless and that is what makes the difference. I want to congratulate and thank all the boys involved today but also those involved throughout the season who have played a part in helping us win the double. We have great strength in depth and that's what you need to be successful. We have one more objective now for this season and that is for the second team to complete the league and cup double next week. It just shows the quality we have throughout the club that we are three quarters of the way to two doubles. '
The second team cup final is against Haywards Heath 2s and is to be played at Uckfield rfc this Saturday at 2.15pm. It will be a tough game and we would love to have your support again.