With a severely depleted squad and calling up for willing volunteers from 2nd and 3rd XV players, the Blue and Golds set out on the long journey to face Sheppey placed two rungs lower in the league.
On a bright day, little or no breeze to complicate matters, the early exchanges were even, with defences on both sides solid. Eastbourne started brightly and spent the first few minutes in Sheppey's 22. But it was the home side who struck first and
scored a try after 10 minutes and converted it. Five minutes later the visitors replied with Jon Warner at scrum half going over under the posts and Ben Barter converting. The heavy Kent scrum was proving difficult to face and despite a solid front row of Webb, Peinado Garcia and Imich, Eastbourne were on the back foot in most set pieces. After twenty minutes good possession enabled Sheppey to score their second try which they also converted. But Eastbourne never gave up and with a few minutes to go before half-time Steve Clarke playing in the back-row forced his way over. Ben Barter converted. At the interval matters were even.
The second half saw a vigorous reply from the home side as they broke the visitors' defences time and time again. Billy Mustafa went off with an injured ankle and play was held up by further injuries to both sides, the hard ground providing on the one hand an excellent platform for running rugby but also an uncomfortable landing for well-tackled opponents. Towards the end of the game Eastbourne came alive with better tackling and incisive thrusts at the opposition line. A final flourish saw Adie Platt from the new back-row dash over for an excellent unconverted touchdown. Final score Sheppey 40 - Eastbourne 19.
Considering the team had less than half a dozen first choice 1st XV players, had had little or no time to practise its line-out work and co--ordinate its open play and support manoeuvres, this was a commendable effort against a big Kent side working smoothly, running hard and gaining confidence minute by minute in the second half. Better defence and more careful handling would have seen a more satisfying performance from the Blue and Golds, but the players did not disgrace themselves. They showed great spirit and determination. With a re-inforced squad next week Eastbourne will face Old Dunstonians away.
Team: Mustafa, Delaney, Walker, Cheater, Rokan, Warner, Barter, Webb, Imich, Peinado Garcia, Hills, Williams, Platt, Clarke, Smith, Sanders, Aitkenhead.
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