LEWES travelled to Chichester in the quarter final of the Sussex Trophy last Saturday with an interesting squad due to injuries and availability so players had to adapt themselves to playing out of position.
The game started with Lewes on the attack and they won themselves a penalty midway in the Chichester half, which was dispatched with aplomb by inside centre Jon Pitts to get the visitors 3-0 in the lead.
Lewes did well to break up the Chichester play and won ball in the rucks but couldn’t get the momentum to gain a stranglehold on the match.
Chichester began to get more possession and eventually got the ball out wide to their winger to score in the corner and the fly half Stuart Pearman added the conversion to take a 7-3 lead.
A Chichester player then took a cheap shot at the Lewes captain, Callum Armstrong, that really should have earned him a red card. Armstrong was being held by the player and tried to release his arms when the home player then hurled a straight right hand flush into Armstrong’s face. To Armstronng’s credit, he kept his discipline and did not retaliate. However, the officials failed to see the offence and allowed the Chi player to get off scot-free, which naturally incensed Lewes coaches and supporters.
The game restarted with Chichester on the attack, with some good hold-up play from Lewes and a tackle coming in from debutant Colt Henry Shiell.
The hosts then recycled the ball, with scrum half Billy Toone sending the ball out wide for their winger to score his second try, again in the corner but the fly half failed to convert with the kick out wide.
The home team was now mounting more pressure and formed a maul midway in the Lewes half to the left which went on for about 15 metres, allowing tight-head prop Phil Veltem to power over the line to score and make it 12-3, despite the valiant rearguard effort from Lewes.
The vistors then mounted some passages of play, with scrum half Matt Hodson getting ball from a solid Lewes scrum with George Dean prominent; so the backs saw more ball with fly half Marty Campbell trying to step through Chichester’s defence and Lewes found themselves on the Chichester 22.
Prop Dean then got hold of the ball and charged through the attempted tackles and managed to off-load on the line to Campbell who pounced on the ball to score for Lewes, but Pitts failed with the kick.
Chichester sensed Lewes were getting back into the game through sheer hard work, with Armstrong making some powerful runs through midfield aided by flankers Nick Sharp and Tom Tudor. Chichester, however, managed to get their maul going again, which was their powerful weapon during the match, and Veltem scored again with Pearman adding the extras to make it 19-8 at half time.
The second half began with Lewes trying to get some momentum going with the backs doing their best to break the Chichester line of defence but were unable to capitalise.
Chichester then began to win the ball with No 9 Toone spinning the ball out wide along the line, tackles were still coming in though from Lewes, noticeably from second rower Matt Ridley, but this couldn’t prevent Chichester scoring and converting again via the Veltom/Pearman double act, making the score 26-8.
Doing their best to spoil the Chichester play, Lewes got what their hard work deserved when scrum half Hodson intercepted a loose pass and sprinted to the line from just inside the half to score and make it 26-13.
Sensing they could now get something out of the game, Lewes started to move the ball about and mounted pressure on Chichester, which was eventually relieved with a kick from full-back Jamie Knowles from his own 22 that found touch into the Lewes half.
This was to be the final play of the match and sent Chichester into the semi final of the Sussex Trophy.
Lewes can hold their heads up high in what was a fine effort considering the higher level at which Chichester play (London 1). Also, with players out of position due to injuries to key players and other unavailability, these problems had to be overcome.
A mention must also go to Henry Shiell playing his first game for the first team after only playing two second team games who was not at all phased by the step up.