London 3 South East
Crowborough 64 Uckfield 7
THIS local derby was one of only three matches played in the division on Saturday catching up on weather related postponements.
Local derbies are notoriously hard to call, and with Uckfield’s narrow loss to third-placed Folkestone the previous week, and four other losses of seven points or fewer, the visitors to Steel Cross could have – had circumstances been slightly different – been featuring in the top half of the league.
Both sides were missing players, although, at this stage of the season it is to be expected.
But Crowborough were not going to underestimate their opponents and, in a compliment to their visitors, they fielded their strongest available side on this international weekend.
Boro posted their intentions from the kick-off, recycling the ball with crisp pick and drives, sucking in the defence before releasing their backs. Within five minutes, Uckfield had put in a tremendous tackle count without laying a serious hand on the ball.
With play moving inexorably towards the Uckfield line, Crowborough were awarded a penalty deep in the left corner. Seb Goodhew took the quick tap, popping the ball to Ben Martyn who arrived at such a pace that he drove two defenders over the line with him to open the score. The conversion was missed.
In the initial set pieces Uckfield’s powerful front five stood firm, and it would be into the second quarter, before the Boro front five would eventually get the measure of their bigger opponents and start to drive them backwards and upwards. This would then leave the excellent back row free to get to the breakdowns first, and secure the clean quick ball that would put their backs away.
This combination of backs and forwards working in close harmony and changing the point of attack at will forced the Uckfield defence onto the back foot, opening up huge gaps that the Boro attack gratefully exploited, much to the appreciation of the 200 or so faithful who had turned out to watch.
When Uckfield did get some possession, they were restricted to a couple of impressive runs from their left wing, but excellent defence, particularly from the two Toms, Noot and Nicoll, restricted them to a couple of missed penalty attempts.
In a 20-minute spell, Crowborough effectively closed the game down with four more tries.
The first from Mitch Malherbe, who finished off a well-worked team effort; the second from Goodhew who was on hand to finish off the move he started with a quick penalty; the third from Murray Galbraith-Lowe, who, with Malherbe, chased Jack Barker’s hoisted kick, sufficiently distracting the Uckfield wing for the ball to be gathered to score under the posts.
Uckfield had not been helped by the loss of No 8 Danny Hemsley after he received a nasty gash to the face, while a Tom Ward penalty fell just short, denying the visitors their first points on the board.
The final try came just before the half time whistle, following a missed Uckfield penalty attempt. Barker’s 22 drop out was caught by the industrious Galbraith-Lowe, who, with a deft hand-off, found himself in the clear with 70 metres to go. Needing no second invitation, he set off, chased forlornly by a dwindling number of defenders – the last of whom saw him dive over for the score. All four tries were converted by Barker who added a penalty for good measure to take the half time score to 36-0.
It says much for the character of the Uckfield unit, in that from the restart they came out determined to play a full part, and took the game into the Crowborough 22, but a turnover saw former Acorn Matt Logan scoop up the loose ball and, after breaking two cover tackles and making 50 metres, found Nicoll in support who went over under the posts for a try that Barker converted (43-0).
In desperation the Uckfield second row was yellow carded for an attempted trip on Hamish Greenwood, and it was from the subsequent penalty that Barker, after sterling defensive work by the Uckfield line, found the gap to glide over the line taking the score to 50-0 converting his own score.
With the visitors understandably tiring, Nicoll drifted through the defence for another Barker converted try, before Uckfield got onto the scoreboard with a well-deserved try when scrum half Matt Evans simply ripped the ball out of the Crowborough No.8’s arms to score under the posts, to the appreciative applause of all the supporters. Ward made the conversion (57-7).
In a final flourish, Greenwood, having earlier been denied a score, at last crossed the line in the corner for Barker to add the final two points bringing the game to an end 64-7.
Next week Crowborough welcome Bromley to Steel Cross. Uckfield’s next match is against second place Medway. Uckfield’s man of the match was Ian Page-Mitchell.
BORO: Rosier, Martyn,Cooper (c), Botterman, Hayes, Galbraith-Lowe, Carruthers, Noott, Goodhew, Barker, Malherbe, Logan, Nicoll, Burgess, Atkin. Subs: Tasker, Dagwell, Greenwood.
ACORNS: Page-Mitchell, Elms (L Evans), Chappell (c), Ridley, Holman, Ward (Douse), M Evans; Whitmarsh, Sinclair, Parke Gaily, Brand, Funnell, Powis, Caket, Hemsley (Bradley).