LEWES had the better of the first and last quarters of this entertaining local derby at Saint Hill, but table-topping, undefeated East Grinstead did enough in the middle part of the match to deserve their win.
Throughout, the visitors’ pack was under pressure in the tight which resulted in slow ball and a number of reversals at the put-in.
From the kick-off, Lewes were in the mood to move the ball wide and this - combined with numerous errors from the hosts – gained them good field position.
Fly-half Marty Campbell capitalised on this with a 35-metre penalty after five minutes to open the scoring. A loose clearance by the home side then saw full-back Matt Hodson set up a telling counter-attack to set right winger Owen Evans free for an unconverted try in the right-hand corner to make it 8-0.
At this point, Lewes looked comfortable with their lead, but Grinstead then stepped up their game through the forceful driving of their pack and, under such pressure, Lewes gave away a number of penalties in and around the 22 metre area, two of which were successfully kicked to narrow the difference, an on the half hour Grinstead scored an unconverted try to take the lead 11-8.
The turning-point of the game came shortly after the half-time break when Campbell’s drop-out from his 22 was charged down, allowing Grinstead to exert intense pressure to score out wide.
The successful conversion took the score to 18 - 8, meaning Lewes had to score at least twice to gain the spoils. This was soon made even more difficult following another well-judged chip which saw Grinstead score another converted try to stretch their lead to 25-8.
Lewes could have folded, but resolutely fought their way back into the game by sticking to their ability to spread the ball whenever possible. This pressure told when some scrappy play by the home side allowed replacement centre Nick Sharp to get to the touchdown for a fine, but unconverted, try.
The visitors were now hell-bent on at least another score to try and gain a losing bonus point, but luck was not on their side in the last ten minutes, as the referee denied them advantage in three crucial decisions - including the ‘bloomer’ of awarding Grinstead a defensive drop-out on the 22 when an attacking five-metre scrum to Lewes would have been the correct decision.
On Saturday, Lewes have another tough match, at home to high-flying Warlingham, kick-off 2.30pm.
Lewes: Brunt, Edmondson, Dean, Brant, Hamer, Tudor, Armstrong, Ridley, Bell, Campbell, Halpin, Patto, Wade, Evans, Hodson. (subs: Gorbell, Sharp, Lacy)