Rugby: Blue and Golds upset the odds to claim Sussex Shield glory
Eastbourne head coach Adrian Norwood praised his players' hard work and determination as they were crowned Sussex Shield Champions.
The Blue and Golds delivered a season’s best performance to upset East Grinstead, who compete in the division above, to triumph 20-34 at the Hastings Recreation Ground.
“We are all absolutely ecstatic,” said Norwood. “The players have worked so hard in preparation for this match. It really does show what you can achieve if you are prepared to work at it.
“It has been a tough season for the players. They have had some knocks and defeats along the way. But they have learned from the mistakes and each and every one is a better rugby player because of it. As a coach it has been great to work with these lads and see to the improvement.
“I’m so pleased for the players and for the entire club. To end the season with some silverware is the perfect way to finish. We will now put our feet up for a bit and then look to go again. This group is capable of achieving more no doubt about that.”
It was a sensational final and the conditions suited open, fast running rugby and the Blue & Golds had this in abundance. Although the Green & Blacks fielded an enormous pack, they were unable to match the fluency and determination of Eastbourne in open play.
The opening exchanges looked ominous to the huge number of supporters who had made their way to watch the game. Grinstead opened their account with an unconverted try.
Eastbourne responded immediately putting Shaun Everett through for a five pointer which Nathan Ring easily converted. A penalty to Eastbourne took the score to 5-10; the score line looked as though it would be extended further following an exciting surge out of defence led by Tom Redman but the move faltered.
The pack continued to absorb pressure at line out and scrum but the Eastbourne three quarters were given numerous opportunities by the half back combination of Longton and Ring and after EG’s were reduced to 14 men by a yellow card, Liam Pyle at centre, intercepted the flow and scored under the posts for Nathan Ring to make it 5-17.
Grinstead refused to give way and scored an unconverted try in the corner just before half time. Eastbourne could be very satisfied with the 10-17 interval score.
The fast pace of the first half continued after the restart. Everett went through for his second but was denied by the referee who brought play back for a penalty. Smith replaced Everett and a tiny knock on led to a 5 metre scrum and try for the EGs No.12.
Game on as the scores tied at 17 -17.
With 20 minutes left Eastbourne came to the fore. A magnificent move put the ball through six pairs of hands ending with Redman scoring in the corner.
Ring made the conversion look easy and although another penalty was given away, the game was shifting fast towards the unfavoured Blue & Golds.
Captain Joe Bettles urged his men to keep focussed and when EG made a mess of a scrum the ball was hacked on, picked up and passed to Ring on the outside to move nine points ahead.
Eastbourne extended the lead from a ruck as the long reach of Ryan Giles secured an historic win.
Exuberant scenes followed the presentation of the shield by the Sussex president who praised both sides for an enthralling game.
Norwood added, “The whole team were fantastic but Tom Redmond was a giant, he inspired the whole team. He won every challenge and drove the team to victory. No ne deserved it more than Tom.”
Eastbourne: Williams, Bowry, Bettles, Thomas, Giles, Quin, Redman, Shuttleworth, Longton, Ring, Hiremut, Pyle, Walker, Everett, Slaughter. Bench: Mckenna, de Lieto, Cousins, Smith, Keen, Buckwell, Smith.