36 - 17
Brighton are a good side. In fact if we don’t win the league, they are my tip for the top this season. We fell apart in the second half to lose the reverse fixture against them earlier in the season, but with good wins against Bognor and Burgess Hill in our last two fixtures, confidence was high and the atmosphere in the changing room was excellent for the biggest game so far as we faced the team at the top of the league for the third match in a row!
Brighton are also on a great run with good wins against some sides in our league who have perhaps strengthened their match day squad a little unfairly (I hate it when others do this to us - well done to Brighton for winning anyway), so we knew we were in for a real battle. The pitch at HQ had survived the deluges of the last few days and was in remarkably good nic as the excellent ref blew for kick off - and then stopped as we realised that Sean had totally disappeared. A search of the club and surrounding countryside finally unearthed him and we were underway at last!
We started strongly and soon found ourselves in the Brighton 22, unfortunately, our linout was not the thing of beauty it should have been and the first of a few attacking opportunities were lost. It was obvious however that moving the large Brighton boys around was going to be key as they could not cope with our pace. We, however, struggled to contain their power at times, and so it was imperative to stop them gaining a toe hold in our danger area. This we failed to do and after only five minutes, a series of huge drives from close range saw the oppo claim the opener.
Where our lineout was uncertain, the forwards made up for it at scrum time as we claimed total dominance in this area, Brighton actually did quite well to retrieve the ball from a swiftly retreating pack on a number of occasions, but on our put in, when we could keep the ball in there, the platform this gave our backs was awesome. First, great hands to the right saw Oscar burst through and over the line, then another great interchange between Oscar and Gibbs saw the latter around the edge on the right to score in the corner and we were leading 10 - 7. Brighton really upped the intensity as phase after phase they drove at us. Our discipline was poor as we failed to cope with each quickly taken penalty or deft kick through. The ref was losing patience with us and Kiernan was show yellow for slowing things down, and then with a man extra, more big drives saw Brighton take the lead once more.
When we had the ball, we were great, but our technical discipline was killing us, if we could sort this out, there was only going to be one winner. Once more, lovely running saw us probing one way and then the other, before Jake Defriend jinked his way over for our third to push us into the lead again. Another huge scrum from five yards saw Halligey control beautifully before gratefully grounding the ball . Ben discovered his kicking boots to slot this one and the whistle went with the scoreboard showing a satisfying 22 - 12.
Needing to finish 8 points or more clear of Brighton to deny them a losing bonus, we spoke about the importance of scoring first in the second period. A nasty ear injury to Ollie saw Max Evans join the front row (Small op and a few stitches and he is as good as new!!) and Liam Casey added some fresh legs to the back row and we were off again. Things were much tighter in the second half, with breaks from Crawley Moore, Marriott and a delightful kick ahead by the excellent Frankie just falling short of scoring, it was left to Halligey to hit a nice line from close range to crash over for his brace, and Robo, back from his extended sailing holiday (Back to a proper sport!!), picked and drove for our sixth of the afternoon. Both these were converted by dead eye Gray. There was time for a consolation for Brighton but the whistle went to leave me a very happy captain.
Apart from Sean, whose time keeping is always spectacular in a most terrible way, DOTD goes to Tom Halligey who instead of trying to catch a huge clearing kick with his hands, inexplicably tried to jump and catch it with his feet! “At least I didn’t knock it on” he said! I thought Frankie was great at 9, Sean was huge in the scrum and nearly frightened one of the smaller Brighton players to death at one wonderful moment in the match, but my MOM is Oscar with great attack and defence all game - even though he did scare us all by twisting his ankle in the warm up - Well played buddy! Massive thanks to the Brighton boys who were a pleasure throughout. Makes such a difference playing against real sportsmen - good luck for the rest of the season.