21 - 31
We undertook the long, long drive to rivals, and league leaders, Bognor, knowing a fiercely competitive match awaited our arrival. It was the first match of this season that had seen us lose to the Purple and Greens at home in early September to two late tries that had denied us even a losing bonus point. Our goal was to turn that around and beat this team by the same margin on their patch - A feat no one else in the league has accomplished this year! No one got lost on the way down, and even Sean showed up eventually, just in time for the ref’s stud check.
I mentioned last week that it is so good to play with such a settled pack, and as we received the drop out, and started our well oiled routine to move the ball down the pitch, I thought again how much this bunch of forwards has grown and improved over the course of this year. They were going to have their sternest test yet however, as the Bognor boys were both large and canny. Last weekend, we had had to field a quite unexperienced set of backs after five first team call ups, but we had all our regulars back which quickly proved the real difference between the sides, when quick ball was secured, we made serious gains out wide. The clever Bognor back row quickly realised this danger and did everything they could to disrupt the breakdown and stop quick ball. Despite this attention, a break by Marriott down the right got us in behind. When he was hauled down five meters short, the excellent James Stokes (Happy birthday buddy) was on hand to spin the ball out to the left to Sammy who sped over for our first five pointer.
Bognor immediately went on the attack and the left winger smashed over in the corner. The excellent Bognor 10 converted from the touchline to take the lead. Undaunted and on the attack again, this time with Jake Radcliffe, playing on the right, sauntered over under the sticks for a converted score to restore our five point lead (An excellent warm up for his Sussex colts match on Sunday - Hope it went well mate?). This lead again didn’t last long as Bognor scored another wide on the left which again was converted with aplomb. Thus the scoreboard stayed, showing 14 - 12 for the rest of the half.
Fresh legs came on at the break, notably JT at 15 and new number 8, Kris Ailes, who had turned up to training on Thursday for the first time and snapped up the last slot on the bench, Both sides knew the next score was crucial, and so the competition at the breakdown was fierce and at times farcical. It was a shame really as tempers flared and a real edge came into the game. Bognor’s reaction to scoring the next try was intense and the celebrations wild - this was just what we needed to get us right up for the tussle! Our defence was heroic for the next 20 minutes, indeed it had to be, as time and again our line was probed. Could we come back from this? Was 21 - 12 too much of a mountain to climb? Denying Bognor a losing bonus certainly looked a very slim possibility.
Into the last quarter and at last we found some breathing space. Cookie found an enormous clearing kick from deep in our own half, which dribbled out on the oppo five meter mark. Bognor heads visibly dropped, and when great pressure at the lineout forced a mistake, Mike Unsworth was on hand to run in unopposed to give us hope. Into the last ten minutes and still behind, but all the play was with us. Despairing clearing kicks were run back at Bognor with interest. JT’s jinks and steps became more exuberant as more defenders were beaten, and it almost seemed inevitable when a sweeping move left saw Sammy offload to the ever present Ben Gray to cross the whitewash and edge us ahead by three. Most sides would have shut up shop with two minutes to play, but not these Grinstead boys. Their gander was up and the restart was brilliantly carried once more up the pitch. Tom Kiernan, was really up for the fight this week and playing at his best, made us many meters with a series of carries. Pentney and Lampkin had both made huge amounts of ground, but it was No. 8 Kris who administered the ‘Coup de Gras’ and brutalized over under the posts. The conversion was the last play - What a game!
Many thanks to Bognor for a real contest of a game - and for an excellent pulled pork roll after. Great Sussex rugby - We wish you well for the rest of the season. I honestly couldn’t pick out a MoM this week, so team award goes to us!!! Next week sees us travel to the self acclaimed ‘Sussex All Blacks’, Burgess Hill, for a game of equal importance as they are currently sitting second in the table. Please get your availability sorted ASAP!!