Lewes lost by 20 points to 27 at home to Aylesford Bulls in London 2 South East on Saturday.
With only seconds gone on the clock, Lewes’ influential prop-forward, Wes Horscroft, was forced to leave the field with a leg injury. This early disruption made the hosts’ task even harder, and they were forced to play for scraps for the rest of the match as the Bulls’ heavier pack of forwards dictated matters throughout.
But Lewes stuck to their guns, and at least came away with two bonus points – one for scoring four tries, one for finishing within seven points of their opponents’ score – which meant they retain fourth place in the league table.
The initial re-shuffle to Lewes’ pack put them on the back foot in the opening session, and it took the Bulls only eight minutes to open the scoring, working the ball from the right to the left for winger Steve Stewart to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try.
Eleven minutes later, Lewes’ prop-forward Phil Brunt was yellow-carded for foul play but despite being temporarily reduced to 14 players, the hosts hit back with a fine flowing move from 40 metres out, ending with flanker Tom Pashley scoring near the posts for an unconverted try to level matters at 5-5.
The Bulls however went back into the lead almost from the re-start, their forwards driving towards the Lewes line to allow scrum-half Sean Winter to pick up and plunge over near the posts for an opportunist try, converted by outside-half Dan Harvey (5-12).
The home side then drove back upfield to the visitors’ line, and this pressure saw the Bulls’ hooker yellow-carded for killing the ball. But the subsequent attack by the Sussex side broke down and so the score remained unchanged at half-time.
Six minutes into the second half, Lewes won good ruck ball in midfield, and an impressive break by centre Josh McGlynn saw the ball end up in the hands of full-back Joe Terry coming into the line for a great try. The missed conversion made it 10-12. Unfortunately for Lewes, their next attack was punished for ‘crossing’ and, from the resulting penalty, Harvey kicked over to extend his side’s lead to 10-15.
The next period of play saw a series of unforced errors from both sides but with the stronger Bulls’ pack gaining increased possession and territory, only committed Lewes defence kept them out.
Matters then went from bad to worse for the home side when winger James Halpin was yellow-carded for an alleged deliberate knock-on – a decision most spectators thought was somewhat harsh. But to their credit, Lewes fought back on 67 minutes, using good ball from a ruck and floating it out wide to the left for winger Drew Neist to score a well-worked, but unconverted, try (15-15).
But the Bulls immediately responded with a somewhat soft try under the posts, converted by Harvey, to re-take the lead at 15-22, and a mistake a few moments later by Lewes was punished as Stewart went over for his second, but unconverted, try to stretch the advantage to 15-27.
Lewes now thought they had been denied a losing bonus point, but in the last attack of the game a fine move paid off when Neist went over in the left corner for his second – and Lewes- fourth – try. Although the conversion missed, Lewes nevertheless gained two valuable losing bonus points, a fair reflection of an entertaining game of rugby.
Nigel Baker, Head Coach, said: “If we had used our heads and concentrated at the key times, the game was ours to win. This has been our problem the whole season.
On Saturday, Lewes 1st`s have a rest day, their next fixture being away to Heathfield and Waldron on the 23rd. March, k.o. 3.00pm.
Lewes: Brunt, Sinclair, W Horscroft (O Horscroft), Brant, Gorbell (Hoare), Pashley, Were, Armstrong (Capt), Ward, March, Shiel (Reid), McGlynn, Halpin, D Neist, J Terry.
Lewes 2nds entertained high-flying, top-of-the-table Burgess Hill 1sts, losing 44-0 in a game which was interrupted by a serious injury to one of the visiting players, meaning the game had to be temporarily transferred to an adjoining pitch while the player received medical attention (from which he fully recovered later that day).
Lewes 3rds make the trip to Cinque Ports, returning empty-handed after a 28-0 defeat.