Eastbourne’s hopes of a successful cup run were dashed by two lapses in concentration either side of half time.
Eastbourne Rugby Club suffered their first defeat of the season to Surrey One outfit Battersea Ironside, 29-7.
Trailing to the current RFU Junior Vase holders by a mere three points and with the referee poised to blow for the interval, the usually solid line out conceded an inexplicably soft try to the home side.
As if this were not disappointing enough, a missed tackle within seconds of the restart led to a further five points and put the visitors behind by 22 points to seven.
From that point on, Eastbourne were chasing the game and despite best efforts, were unable to break down the Battersea defence.
Ironically it was Eastbourne who controlled the first and final 20 minutes of the game.
However the appalling conditions determined the shape of play and certainly favoured the bigger home forwards.
Initial pressure from the visitors forced a miscued clearance after 10 minutes and Steve Clark gained the charge down and was able to put winger Charlie Smith in for a try which was easily converted by James Coulthard.
This lead was quickly cancelled out when an incisive run by the Ironsides winger split the Eastbourne defence and forced the ruck on Eastbourne’s line.
The try that followed was inevitable and put the sides on level pegging at seven points apiece. Sadly, influential fly half James Coulthard injured himself in making a strong tackle and was taken off for treatment. The back line reorganised and apart from conceding an unnecessary penalty for three points, Eastbourne still looked to be capable of retaking the lead. Then the two errors either side of half time which took the home side into a convincing lead.
With the comfort of a two try advantage, the Ironsides played the sensible option and kept the play tight. What possession Eastbourne did have in this third quarter was too often turned over and from one such phase, Battersea were able to score their fourth try; this seemed to provide a stimulus for an Eastbourne revival and the last 20 minutes of the game were spent camped in the home half.
Smith was only denied by inches and numerous phases of possession led to wave after wave of attack. Yellow cards had sent Battersea players to the sin bin but try as they might, the Blue and Golds were unable to cross the try line. A competitive cup tie thus went to the home side and on balance, deservedly so. But Eastbourne showed their mettle and every player from 1 - 19 acquitted themselves with pride. Next week it will be back to league action with a shorter trip up to Crowborough, who lie ninth out of 12 teams in Sussex One.
After disappointingly losing their first match of the season and heading out of the cup the Blue and Golds will be raring to go and get back to winning ways this weekend.
Eastbourne: Imich; Sinclair; Webb; Van Bentham; Farley; Buttle; Cousins; Redman; Longton; Coulthard; Smith; Tennant; Clark; King; Cheater; Keen P; Keen D; Goldsmith; Stevenson