London 2 SE: Lewes 17 Crowborough 17 – game between leaders and second-placed side is as tight as expected

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The league leaders playing the second-placed team was always going to be a tough challenge for Lewes, and so it proved in this tight affair.

A try in the dying seconds of the match against a well-drilled Crowborough outfit earned the hosts a draw which, on balance, was a fair result and maintained their top-of-the-table status.

Lewes exerted the early pressure, restricting Boro to play inside their own half for the first 29 minutes. However, Lewes were unable to turn this superiority into points and the only real opportunity – a penalty against the visitors for offside after 18 minutes – was missed.

The first time Boro managed to get inside Lewes’ half resulted in the first points of the match; a line-out seven metres from the line resulted in prop-forward Michael O’Sullivan touching down, outside-half Jack Barber’s conversion making it 0-7. Lewes hit back straight from the restart, a strong forward drive to the line paying off as prop George Dean plunged over for an unconverted try.

On 27 minutes Boro scored again. A Lewes move inside Boro’s 22 broke down and the ball was sped back upfield for flanker Murray Galbraith-Lowe to score near the posts. Barker added the conversion to stretch the visitors’ lead to 5-14.

Battling Lewes narrowed the gap to 12-14 just before the break. Lewes won line-out ball on 22 meteres before spinning it out wide for left-winger Drew Neist to come into the line on the right for a fine try, converted by inside centre Josh Reid.

The second half saw Boro in the ascendant, their pack of forwards winning too much turnover and loose ball for Lewes’ liking, only excellent defence by the hosts keeping them out.

A penalty on 46 minutes for offside enabled Barker to stretch his team’s lead to 12-17, and the next quarter saw the game ebb and flow as both sides struggled to get consistency in their play.

A series of Boro attacks broke down, due to unforced errors and last-ditch tackles in defence by Lewes, who then finished the stronger, pinning Boro down inside their 22 for the final few minutes. This pressure paid off seconds from the whistle, when a great move between forwards and backs ending with Neist scoring his second try wide out left. Reid just missed what would have been the match-winning kick, but the large crowd of supporters from both sides probably saw 17-17 as a fair result.

Lewes: Brunt, Sinclair, Williams, Brant, Ridley, Gribble, Were, Armstrong, Ward, March, Wade, Reid, McGlynn, Neist, Hodson.