Lewes RFC lost 29-22 to Brighton in a truly pulsating local derby full of incident with the lead changing hands four times in the 80 minutes.
Home support at the Stanley Turner Ground would say a draw would have been a fair result, but two crucial refereeing decisions left them feeling that they had not received fair treatment, although Brighton have to be commended for coming back twice to gain the win and a bonus point.
Lewes took a 12-0 lead through tries from James Halpin and George Dean. However, Brighton pulled seven points back when the referee awarded a highly controversial penalty try, when the hosts felt a yellow card for a collapsed scrum five metres from the line.
The bizarre nature of this call from the referee was compounded a few minutes later when Halpin again went over to score, only for the referee, who was not up with the play, to rule that the ball had been held up. Photographic evidence clearly demonstrated to the contrary... oh, for a TMO!
Brighton rode this piece of luck and took charge of the last quarter of the first half with two scores to lead 21-12 at the break. Lewes hit back after the turnaround with a try by Mark Ridley and a conversion and a penalty from Jon Pitts to lead by a point – before the visitors regained the lead with a penalty of their own.
They then put matters beyond reach with another try for the final score of the match.
Lewes can, with some justification, feel sore about the outcome. Coach Nigel Baker described the game as: “A very close-fought contest that was eventually won by Brighton getting the rub of the green on key refereeing decisions.”
See this Friday’s Sussex Express for a full report and pictures – including photographic evidence of THAT Halpin ‘try’ that never was.