Sussex University Men’s Rugby travelled to East Grinstead on Sunday (9/11/08) to play a match against England Deaf. In conditions more akin to trench warfare than rugby, it was perhaps quite appropriate it was Remembrance Sunday, and the one minute’s silence before the game in memory of those who fought in the First World War was immaculately observed.
After a tight 15-13 loss, second team captain and stand in coach Adam Hobbs said: “it was a valiant effort and if it was not for a glaring mistake by one of our back row players, we certainly would have achieved a major scalp.”
However, Sussex acquitted themselves well as a team from the outset, defending stoically early on and, after a length of the field run involving centres Sam Newing and Ceri Thomas, as well as full-back Rob Dowling, Sussex took the lead through a Dowling penalty.
England then began to use their significant weight advantage in the forwards and eventually scored after some brave defending. A second try, this time converted, on the stroke of half-time flattered England going into the interval with a 12-3 lead.
A change of shirts – but no change in their forward orientated game plan – after half-time saw England pile the pressure on Sussex with a series of drives from the base of the ruck. The Sussex defence held strong and intelligent kicking from Tom Morgan and strong midfield running from Thomas kept them on the front foot whenever they had possession. Sussex were unlucky not to score when Tom Nicholas was held up in the corner and then Thomas himself was held up just short of the line.
Sussex then went further behind, conceding a penalty, but this only sparked a revival and a kick through was eventually capitalised on by Newing to put Sussex within a score of England.
‘Sussex acquitted themselves well as a team from the outset’
With England tiring and Sussex’s superior fitness and quality of play from the backs starting to show, Thomas again broke the line and a series of forward drives saw number eight Ali Hill cap a superb game by powering over from two metres. The ball now resembled a concrete block and although Dowling had the direction, the distance was lacking.
Sussex knew they needed one final score to claim a memorable victory, and they soon got their chance. A well-worked backs move created an overlap, only for a forward to appear in the line: Alex Smith ignoring men outside and butchering a try-scoring opportunity.
However, Sussex managed to snaffle the ball back and a strong run from captain Peter Holmes led the charge up field. With Sussex within twenty metres of the line they coughed up possession and England’s forwards were not forthcoming in letting Sussex get the ball back, killing time until the final whistle.
On a muddy pitch it was definitely a game of attrition, but the positive play from the backs and a superb effort from the forwards, suggests a turnaround to Sussex’s season should not be far away.