Eastbourne well beaten by Old Boys – Haywards Heath leave it late at Brighton
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KCS Old Boys 56 Eastbourne 18
Eastbourne had a day to forget away to third-placed KCS Old Boys on a frosty and bitter day.
The reverse fixture saw Eastbourne take victory but they knew KCS would be a different beast at home and had prepared for this all week.
The fixture was the only one played in the division, with all other fixtures abandoned because of frozen pitches.
The game kicked off and Eastbourne received the ball deep in their half. They were immediately on the back foot after the clearance kick was charged down and the consequent goal-line drop out was also charged down, landing in the hand of a KCS player who bundled over to score.
This sparked a reaction from the Eastbourne players who spent the next 10 minutes camped in the KCS half, forcing the home team into a number of penalties.
Captain Jake Howe, opting to turn possession into points and kick for the posts, made it 7-3.
Eastbourne regained possession from kick-off and were again on the front foot. Eastbourne made significant territory gains and earned a penalty in the KCS 22, opting for a scrum.
Jeremy Montes and Brendan Challis linked well at the back of the scrum and Challis was in for the first Eastbourne try.
This frustrated the home side and they quickly got revenge, scoring two quick tries. KCS went into half-time 17-8 in the lead but Eastbourne felt they were in the game.
The second half started well for the away side. Eastbourne put the KCS defence under pressure, causing one of the KCS players to be yellow-carded for repeated infringements.
With the advantage, Stuart Baker found himself with space on the wing and finished in true winger’s style, diving into the corner and avoiding the covering defence.
Eastbourne managed the restart well and again entered the KCS 22 but left empty-handed. Fly half Aaron Hossack was sent to the sin-bin alongside a KCS player for a lack of discipline.
This saw the momentum swing monumentally against Eastbourne and in the favour of KCS. The home team went on a scoring rampage, scoring six unanswered tries and getting into a comfortable lead.
Eastbourne did score their final try in the 79th minute. Winger Justin Funnell dotted down after a good break from Hossack. Eastbourne rushed the conversation, hoping to regain possession and compete for a try-scoring bonus.
KCS had the last laugh, securing a turnover in the Eastbourne half and scoring in the corner to end it 56-18. MoM was Hossack for his game management and breaks through the defence.
It was an extremely disappointing day for Eastbourne but they have learnt lessons which they will take into the next four games, all of which are at home, so get down and support the boys.
Firs is a tough fixture against second-placed Old Tiffinians tomorrow (2pm).
Brighton Athletic 22 Haywards Heath 27
Counties 2 Sussex
A slowly thawing pitch meant this game wasn't given the go-ahead by the referee until 45 minutes before the start on a cold afternoon.
Heath were keen to pick up from where they had left off the previous week, while showing seven changes to the squad.
Brighton were first on the scoreboard with a carry from one of their big forwards before creating a three-on-one overlap wide left.
Heath hit back with a try when a break on the right from their 22 saw Chris Neill away – after a quick inter-change of passes with supporting scrum half Evan Herbert to draw the defence, he went over in the corner for 5-5.
Playing with the wind Brighton kept hold of the ball and looked to move it wide and exploit the flanks with some success and were back on the board after spending time in Heath territory. A drive from the base of a ruck saw the home side to the line before another overlap wide left saw a score in the corner.
Heath were lacking their usual sharpness and not defending as a team, but they weathered a further Brighton storm before allowing a break from an opposition lineout to give the home forwards a platform to drive up and over the line for a lead of 15-5
Heath managed to get some territory in the home 22 from a kick to the corner. A lineout to Heath was driven to within five metres of the line before being swung wide where Christian Streater carried strongly. A burst through the middle of the ruck from openside Toby Vander took him to the line where he got an offload to winger Takhy Ndiaye Marrero to dot down for 15-10 before the break.
In the second half the home side stretched their lead 12 minutes in when a couple of missed tackles saw the ball shifted to the right wing and the Brighton winger went over in the corner for a converted try – 22-10.
Heath started to play and a break from in their own half saw skipper Wilf Bridges claw his way over for 22-15.
Within five minutes another break from deep and more intricate passing saw centre Henry Starkey skip through for a try to make it 22-20.
With belief pumping through Heath, they worked more territory wide on the Brighton right. A disallowed try let Brighton off the hook but with the set piece scrum dominant, roared on by the travelling support they went again.
Streater ran a hard line back against the defenders and accepting the opportunity with a flamboyant dive. Wharton slotted over the conversion to make it 22-27.
When Heath made a mess of two or three opportunities to exit, Brighton looked to steal the win. Epic defence in the Heath red zone saw three minutes of intense Brighton attacks thwarted.
So a patchy 60 minutes from Heath was glossed over with a fabulous spell of rugby in the last 20 minutes to secure the bonus point and the win.
This week sees Heath firsts go to Seaford.