In a largely scrappy encounter, Sussex University tenaciously edged out a resolute Royal Veterinary College to secure their first win of the season.
With both teams without wins in their respective leagues, a victory in this cup tie would serve as an opportunity to revitalise fortunes. Largely courtesy of Robbie Dowling’s impeccable form with the boot, it was Sussex who were able to hold out for a 19-10 win.
From the kick-off, Sussex were the quicker of the two teams to settle, with Tom Morgan having an immediate impact at out-half. As a result of sustained pressure and some fluent back-play courtesy of Morgan’s effective distribution, it was Sussex who went ahead on the twenty-minute mark as a result of a penalty try when Ceri Thomas was apprehended after chipping through. Sussex continued to control the first half, and extended their lead to 13-0 when Dean Graham went over, benefiting from a faltering Vets line-out, as well as through a Robbie Dowling penalty. However, despite Sussex’s dominance of the majority of the first half, the Vets rallied just before the break. As a result of a series of slack tackling, the Sussex defence crumbled and eventually allowed the Vets open-side winger to power over from close range to take the scores to 13-5 at the break.
‘The Sussex defence, led by tireless Captain Peter Holmes, remained resolute’
After the restart both teams struggled to get going. For a period the game descended into a kicking battle in which both sides were continually frustrated by the new permutations of the recently introduced ELV’s. While neither side was able to put together any fluent attacking rugby, it was Sussex who profited from two cheap Vets’ penalties, which were willingly punished by Robbie Dowling’s boot.
At 19-5, with only 15 minutes remaining the game seemed to be winding down. However, in the last 10 minutes the Vets united and mounted a spirited comeback. Their efforts were rewarded with a well-worked forwards’ try on 72 minutes. A revived Vets side continued to bombard the Sussex line in the last 10 minutes, but their efforts were in vein as the Sussex defence, led by tireless Captain Peter Holmes, remained resolute allowing Sussex to emerge 19-10 victors.
After the game Adam Hobbes, stand-in Sussex Coach, reflected that “Although the game was a bit scrappy, our boys simply wanted it more. They showed great effort and heart at the end in the face of some strong pressure from the Vets in the last 10 minutes.” He added, “The efforts of Robbie Dowling really helped today, as well as those of Ceri Thomas, who I thought was unlucky not to be awarded the try his performance deserved.”