7 - 15
So, the last report of the season and the hardest to write by far. So many if’s and but’s churning through my head as I think about the action from a packed Uckfield rfc on Saturday afternoon. All the pre match build up was about being a team for this the last, but most important game of the season, as we prepared to take on Haywards Heath 2’s who have had a great season in the league above us. Heath are a couple of years ahead of us in a similar rebuilding plan to East Grinstead, and like us have a great mix of youth and experience across their squad. Although we knew this was going to be a challenge, we knew it was not out of reach.
Pete Morely secured the ball from the start, amongst loud support from both sets of fans, supporting these two proud Sussex clubs, and we were underway. The warm up had gone well and G’s were nicely focused, calm, and played some good controlled rugby in the opening exchanges. A half break from Marriott drew a penalty which Ben Gray poked in the corner to apply the first pressure of the match, unfortunately, as has been the case too many times this season, the oppo stole the lineout and Heath escaped unscathed. Some good rugger from the oppo moved the ball into our danger area, where a penalty was won and converted to give Heath a three point lead. This was the encouragement they needed as they pushed us back again and scored a fine try in the corner. 0 - 8.
G’s came roaring back and after sustained phase play, Ben Gray scored his 9th of the season and converted to lift us. Only a point behind and we really started to play. Titch carving through was tap tackled and desperately tried to stay on his feet as he bundled towards the line, but came up agonisingly short. A few minutes later, a tiny knock-on with the try line begging denied us again. Having celebrated both of these scores prematurely, it was so disappointing to end the half still behind having played so well for such large periods, however there was no panic as there was still plenty of time.
The beginning of the second period saw more of the same, and a brilliant drop goal attempt from Gray came back off the post, and then more heartbreak as a penalty awarded missed to the left. The next quarter was tit for tat rugby as this excellent Heath side started to impose themselves again. Great defence, and some awesome turnovers from Calum Champain kept them out. Lovely running from Dan Baptist broke the Heath line on a number of occasions and then a wonderful moment when Sean Morgan picked up one of the Heath ball carriers and ran up the pitch with both man and ball, a la George North.
As time ticked away, the pressure built, and the one point gap started to feel bigger and bigger. Heath were playing good positional rugby and pinning us back time and again and then, with only a few minutes on the clock, heartbreak as Heath scored down the left and then brilliantly converted from the touchline to take them two scores clear. 7 - 15.
We have built this season on respect, teamwork and good hard rugby. It is easy to maintain good values and sportsmanship when winning week in week out, but my pride in my team when the final whistle blew was immense, to see my boys with heads high, showing what an awesome club East Grinstead is, gave me huge pleasure. You don’t always have to win to be winners!
Amongst the tears and disappointment, we were cheered to be presented with our league trophy after the match, and to chat with the Haywards Heath boys - It really was a great game which could have gone either way. I was also pleased to hear that we were among the best teams that Heath have faced this season. This sets us up nicely for next year where we should find ourselves facing each other again in Sussex 3 and hopefully battling again for promotion.
My MOM, goes to Champers, whose passion, engine and skill, was inspiring, as it has been all season! Love you bro!
Thanks to all the support, to Uckfield for hosting and Sussex for loads of free beer!
See you all for the awards evening on the 13th!