This season has seen Crowborough run their opponents close on six separate occasions, and had those results been reversed, then they would now have been battling at the top end of the table close to the promotion race, rather than scrambling to avoid relegation.
That predicament was clearly outlined during training, and the squad were left in no doubt that 12 points from the remaining four games had to be the target.
Aylesford Bulls are an in-form side, who have put several impressive results together recently, pulling themselves clear of their earlier basement position, and were to prove that these results were no fluke.
Crowborough started the match strongly, with a commitment that was to be typified by one specific crunching tackle from Zack Coe. The impact was not just physical but psychological, raising the intensity and setting a benchmark for his team mates. For 15 minutes, the two sides tried to get the upper hand, with ‘Boro’s Matt Botterman, freed from the confines of the second row, leading the charge and taking the short crash balls at #8 with real authority, which with the Bulls on the back foot, allowed young Dan Moore to release the backs and give Chris Yates the time needed.
Aylesford’s defence was well schooled, and prevented several attempted break throughs, and from one such breakdown, the Bulls first won, then recycled the ball to the left, and with two lacklustre attempted tackles that undid all the good work that had gone before, the wing simply cruised in over the line to score. The kick went wide. 0-5
This game, for the impartial spectator was to be a real treat. For the partisan supporters of both sides it was to develop into a nail biter. Both sides tried their hardest to break down the defences with some excellent running, and Andy Walters nearly brought the scores level when he cut a delightful line through the centre of the Bull’s defence only for the pass to be correctly judged to have been forward. Crowborough however had the momentum and moments later Tom Burgess latched onto a Walters off-load to cross the whitewash. The kick missed. 5-5
The outcome of this match was ultimately to be defined in the fifteen seconds at the end of the two halves. With the referee looking at his watch, The Bulls took advantage of an injury in the ‘Boro centre, to carve a line that that put their half back in under the posts. The kick was successful and the half came to an end with ‘Boro looking at an unrepresentative but strangely familiar 5-12 scoreline.
Clearly coach Richard Siggs had a few choice words in the huddle, as ‘Boro came out with a determined but composed attitude, winning the crucial 50/50 balls and with Chris Yates’s pin point kicks to the corners, putting pressure on the Bull’s defence.
From a line out on the right, two cut out passes found young Harry Sansbury on the left wing who with a turn of speed rounded his opposite number, but as the move looked as though it was about to run out of steam, Yates popped up to take the inside pass and crash over in the corner. The kick by Matt Tyler was pulled wide as the score line narrowed. 10-12
Three forced changes, for injuries to centres Walters ( Branden Gee ) , and Waghorn ( Matt Eyres ) , then to flanker Coe ( Ben Martyn ), saw the replacements make immediate impacts. Gee surprised the Bulls’ defence with his first touch, being held up just inches from the line, only for the Bull’s to scramble the ball clear.
With fifteen minutes of the match remaining Aylesford exploited another defensive lapse, putting the game out of ‘Boro’s losing bonus point territory with another converted try 10-19.
Unlike some of the other close games, Crowborough continued to dig deep, going through the phases with confidence, and showing a strength of character previously missing. This culminated in a try for Matt Eyres who finished of an excellently constructed team try, converted by Matt Tyler. 17-19.
To their credit, with less than a minute remaining, Crowborough continued to attack fully believing that they could get the final score. With a scrum fifteen metres out an eight man drive saw the Bulls front row buckle and the referee awarded ‘Boro the vital penalty that Matt Tyler, with seconds on the clock, converted to take the important four points at 20-19.
This weekend the pressure does not stop with Deal & Bettshanger visiting Steel Cross, and with each week throwing up surprising results throughout the league, the final outcome really is too close to call.