‘We were undone by a decent player this afternoon,’ said 1st team captain and acting coach Pete Holmes in the wake of Wednesday’s 29-10 defeat to Brighton 2nd. For sure, one man could account for the 19-point deficit alone: Ryan Tracey, Brighton University’s right-winger. His four-try haul perhaps made the difference on the score sheet, but realistically this Brighton team was too good for Sussex.

‘There was often frustration at the lack of ability to penetrate the Brighton defensive line’

On a crisp autumnal afternoon perfect for rugby, Sussex had begun strongly if without much penetration. The first act of the game by Sussex following kick-off was a chip-and-chase over the Brighton defence that resulted in an attacking scrum just 5metres from the Brighton try line. A succession of kicked possession and lineouts ensued until the first points of the game were scored. And they went to Brighton. The referee spotted an infringement as Brighton attacked the Sussex line, and their No.8 took a quick penalty. Suddenly, as the Sussex defence struggled to reorganise, he was advancing on the try line with a teammate on his shoulder and only the Sussex full-back in front of him. It was a simple try to finish off and Brighton took a 5-0 lead after just 10 minutes.

Sussex seemed rattled and a poor restart gifted Brighton an attacking scrum on the halfway line. The Sussex pack looked for leadership and their own No.8 Alastair Hill was making hard yards at the breakdowns in an attempt to pull Sussex back level. Unfortunately, the performance was struggling with poor handling and decision-making at times that often rid Sussex of a chance to really test the Brighton defence. Before they knew it, the deficit grew from 5 to 17. Two of Tracey’s eventual four tries were scored in the space of 4minutes. In scoring the first try he used his pace to outflank the Sussex line and fly-half Sam Newing’s lunging tackle was not enough to bring him down. The second resulted from a turnover at a Sussex scrum, followed by quick ball out to Tracey, which allowed him to use his pace to breach the Sussex line again.

Twenty minutes had elapsed in this cup match, and Sussex already looked too far adrift of their neighbours. By halftime the lead would widen again to 22-3, with a solitary Newing penalty Sussex’s only reply to another try by Tracey. However, despite the supremacy in the scoreline it had been a frustrating, not devastating half for Sussex. There had been periods of concerted pressure in the Brighton half, but all too common there were lost lineouts or turnovers at the breakdown that hindered Sussex’s attacking flow.

The halftime huddle seemed to galvanise the team because for the majority of the second half the game was played in the Brighton half. However once more there was often frustration at the lack of ability to penetrate the Brighton defensive line. One incident summed this up perfectly. A succession of lineouts were gained inside the Brighton 22metre line, and on every occasion the lineout was lost, or when it was finally won at the third time of asking, the resulting scrum resulted in a turnover of possession. Sussex just seemed unable to break through the Brighton defence.

By the time Sussex registered their solitary try of the game in the final few minutes, scored by Andrew Waddup and converted by Mark Montague, Tracey had scored again from a scrum set-piece. In between the two scores there had been a red card for the Brighton No.5 and a, perhaps complimentary, light scuffle between the two sides. Holmes labelled the match a ‘valiant effort’ and anyone watching would’ve agreed. It was just a lack of cutting-edge when chances presented themselves in the opponent’s territory that really held the team back; oh, and a four-try haul by a Brighton winger.

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