Eastbourne Rugby Club took a giant leap towards promotion from Sussex Spitfire Division One with victory at Crawley on Saturday.
With an almost full-strength side the Blue and Golds looked forward to improving their performance.
Crawley were no easy opponents and threatened to show some of the running skills that overwhelmed the visitors last year.
Good defence kept the home-side at bay and matters were even for long periods. Eastbourne’s scrum held firm and the line-out worked well. The weather and breeze made for difficult handling and a lot of stoppages.
Scrum after scrum resulted in a disjointed first half and the only likely score was a penalty attempt by Crawley.
This failed leaving the sides scoreless at half-time. With a slight breeze now behind them Eastbourne upped the tempo and began to penetrate the home defences.
An excellent backs move resulted in good handling and good pace from Max Cheater propelled him over the line for a first try.
The conversion attempt failed. Crawley made repeated incursions into the visitors’ half but were repulsed by solid defence.
Despite a well-co-ordinated scrum giving good possession and some disruption to the home pack, Eastbourne were unable to add to the score for another twenty minutes.
But another good passing move led to winger Nick King, strong in attack and effective in defence, to crash over on the right hand side to the delight of the travelling supporters.
The touch-down remained unconverted. Although Crawley were unable to break Eastbourne’s defensive line they never gave up despite suffering a number of injuries.
The hold-ups added to the stalemate that characterised much of this encounter. Outstanding in defence captain, Steve Clarke led by example. Good runs by Matthew Mottram, Gav Farley, Matt Webb - his usual aggressive self-Ed Sinclair, Tom Redman and Ricky van Bentham kept Crawley’s defences on their toes. Since his elevation to the 1st XV Ricky has continued to improve as a player and shows great promise. Stef Cousins did well in defence.
Overall, some wayward kicking from the backs gave Crawley too much possession, although the ball was difficult to handle, being at the same time greasy and mud-caked. No doubt the team will wish to improve on its performance and win the remaining matches in style. Next week Eastbourne are away at Brighton.
Eastbourne Team: Imich, Sinclair, Webb, Motram, Farley, Redman, van Bentham, Cousins, Pysden, Mackay, Smith, Cheater, Clarke, King N, Stevenson, Keen D, Chilvers, Keen P.
Man-of-the-match: Stefan Cousins