Eastbourne succumbed to their first home defeat of the season as they were comfortably defeated by title-chasing Heathfield on Saturday.
The Blue and Golds dug deep last week to claim a draw against Park House but knew that Heathfield would represent a far sterner test of their credentials.
In difficult conditions not conducive for free-flowing rugby, it was no surprise that the opening exchanges were of a scrappy nature. The Blue and Golds’ forwards battled well to starve the away side’s talented backline of possession.
However, with their first opportunity to run at the Eastbourne defence, the Heathfield backs sliced through the home side’s midfield all too easily. A simple switch created space for the left winger to run through unchallenged. The conversion was missed as Eastbourne trailed 0-5.
The try seemed to knock the Blue and Golds back as the size of the task ahead of them suddenly became very apparent.
There was brief respite moments after the opening try as a superb scrum from the Eastbourne pack brought a penalty which Shaun Everett duly slotted over to leave the score 3-5.
This was as good as it got for the home side in the first half as Heathfield showed why they were sitting pretty at the top of the London South East division 3. The table-toppers scored three further tries with their fly-half being given too much time and space to orchestrate the play for his side.
It was a combination of poor tackling and the danger of turnover ball that cost Eastbourne as they went into half-time with a significant deficit (3-22).
It was always going to be a tall order for the Blue and Golds to construct a fight-back, but they certainly showed substantial character as they restricted the rampant backline of Heathfield for large periods whilst having plenty of possession themselves.
The game was over as a contest midway through the second half as two tries in quick succession saw the away side move the score onto 3-34.
Still Eastbourne dug in and finally managed to cross the line with five minutes to go. Front-row forward Richie Barron bundled over from close range to claim a deserved consolation, with Everett adding the extras to leave the final score 10-34.
It was just reward for the home pack as they had been dominant throughout, with Barron and Joe Tobin particularly putting in excellent shifts.
Eastbourne will need to recover quickly from this setback as they travel to Folkestone next Saturday looking to gain some end-of-season momentum as the opportunity of silverware remains in the form of the Bob Rogers Cup.
Team: R. Barron, J.Oakey (J.Imich), M.Webb, M.Mottram, J.Tobin, C.Chilvers (C.Parks), T.Redman, D.Groenen, P.Keen, S.Clark, C.Smith, T.Williams, S.Everett, J.Thompson, G.Turner.
PICTURED MOM: Steve Clark