Eastbourne beaten by Old Tiffinians – Haywards Heath have success at Seaford

Eastbourne RFC had the consolation of a bonus point from a home defeat to Old Tiffinians – while Haywards Heath battled to a narrow victory at Seaford. Reports on both tussles are here...
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Eastbourne 26 Old Tiffinians 48

Counties 1 Surrey/Sussex

Eastbourne lost to second-placed Old Tiffinians at Park Avenue in the first of a string of crucial home games across January and February.

A tight game saw Heath sneak victory 16-17 away at Seaford | Contributed pictureA tight game saw Heath sneak victory 16-17 away at Seaford | Contributed picture
A tight game saw Heath sneak victory 16-17 away at Seaford | Contributed picture

With some convincing wins behind them over most others in the league, Tiffs were always going to be a stern test for an injury-depleted side, and despite the long journey, they'd come to play.

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It's fair to say this match was a tale of two halves, with the first being a difficult 40 minutes for those on the field and for any sporting blue and gold on the sidelines.

Five tries conceded, and 33-0 down at the halfway stage, was not the coaches' game plan.

The focal point of the half-time team talk was on reinvigorating the team's positive attitude, belief and pride in the jersey, and in order to get anything from the game, Eastbourne needed all three.The 'kick up the proverbial' seemed to have done the trick, as Eastbourne started the half, down the hill, the more dominant side. A scrum on the opposition 5m proved the launchpad to open their account, and after some grunt work by the big men up front, second row stalwart Josh Buckwell powered over for his first try of the season, with captain Jake Howe adding the extras.

Jamie Thurston put in a man of the match performance during a very narrow win for Heath | Contributed pictureJamie Thurston put in a man of the match performance during a very narrow win for Heath | Contributed picture
Jamie Thurston put in a man of the match performance during a very narrow win for Heath | Contributed picture

Frustratingly Tiffs' answered back with a try of their own, so the home team knew the game was as good as gone. Their only aim now was to salvage a four-try bonus point.

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Try number two came after a scrum on Tiffs' 5m line allowed Eastbourne to employ the famous 'cheat code', allowing winger Luca Bianchi to dot down in the corner, almost unapposed. No luck on the extras for Howe, so it remained 12-40.

Two became three as scrum half Brendan Challis danced through defenders to dot down. Howe added the extras, but only a try could remedy the game's first half disappointment.

Back row replacement Ryan Shields crossed the whitewash, only to be ruled as having knocked the ball on. But with two minutes left an ambitious catch and drive gave Shields a chance to redeem himself, which he took. In the last play of the match, Eastbourne had secured the bonus point. MoM was Challis for his work-rate.

Eastbourne welcome Kingston tomorrow. All support greatly appreciated.

Seaford 16 Haywards Heath 17

Counties 2 Sussex

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Heath's fourth game in as many weeks saw them win by one point on another road trip – this time at Seaford, which is always a tough away fixture.

Six changes to the side that won at Brighton included the return of centre Jack Lucas, who had been playing National League rugby at Tonbridge Juddians, for his first Heath game in four years.

Heath should have known what was coming from Seaford, but failed to adapt their game plan to the challenges on the day.

Abrasive physical forward play supported by the big boot of their fly half saw Seaford dominate the early exchanges and go ahead after a Heath infringement saw the home side kick a penalty from in front of the posts.

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With most of the game being played in Heath's half, things did not look promising for the visitors until a break from deep took Heath up into the Seaford 22.

Good work from the pack saw the ball recycled right where a long pass found full-back Chris Neill coming into the line on the end of an overlap and score for 3-5.

Heath still couldn't get to grip with Seaford's pack and were coughing up regular penalties for breakdown infringements, which meant the booming boot of the Seaford No10 was regularly gaining significant territory. A burst from the Seaford second row saw him drive through tacklers and outstrip the Heath defence for 10-5.

Yet another Heath misdemeanour at the ruck saw a further penalty stretch Seaford's lead to 13-5 at the break.

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The second half saw a change in the Heath dynamic with the ball being moved around quickly to get the big Seaford forwards moving about.

Heath pressure told and a typical bulldozing leg drive from captain Wilf Bridges saw him over the line and the deficit reduced to 13-10.

Heath were still getting caught out at the breakdown and a regular stream of penalties meant they got no momentum. With half an hour of the second half gone Seaford looked to have potentially sealed the points with another penalty for 16-10.

Heath managed to spurn a couple of opportunities to strike back but eventually got the score with MoM Jamie Thurston scooting through a hole and over the try line under the posts for 16-15. Tom Wharton banged the conversion over for 16-17.

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There was still time for a thunderous end to the match with Seaford on all out attack to attempt to score a try and rejecting the chance to kick for goal believing themselves to be four rather than one points behind.

Valiant Heath defence saw them through to full time and while pleased with the win Heath were ruing the missed bonus point.

One of Heath's poorest performances of the season will leave the coaches with a bit of work to do before the next league fixture.

This weekend sees the Heath Rams at home to Crawley twos in an early kick-off because of the England Six Nations match.

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