IMPROVED LEWES SECURE LOSING BONUS POINT
By DERECK Wade
LEWES 17 OLD DUNSTONIANS 22
With several of their first-team squad returning after injury, Lewes - playing in red shirts - were hoping to halt their recent run of defeats and nearly pulled it off in front of a large home crowd, coming back from a 22 point half-time deficit to dominate the second half, but fell just short. Nevertheless, their losing bonus-point may prove critical if they are to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
Although playing against a strong wind, Lewes started brightly but were punished - somewhat against the run of play - after 9 minutes when they spilt the ball on half-way to see it picked up by OD's scrum-half who sprinted to the try line for the opening score of the match, the conversion by his outside-half seeing the visitors take an early 0 - 7 lead. The Kent side went further ahead after 28 minutes with a slick move out left, finished off by their left-winger and converted by No.10 to make it 0 - 14. OD's forwards then began to take control, securing the ball for their right-winger to score their third, but unconverted, try 4 minutes later to pull away at 0 - 19.
Lewes attempted to fight back with a great attacking move upfield but were thwarted by a deliberate foul which resulted in one of OD's second-rows being yellow-carded. But Lewes were unable to take advantage of the extra man, being held out by disciplined defence by the visitors. Indeed, just before the half-time whistle, OD's added to their score with a penalty, which No. 10 slotted over to go in at the break with a healthy 0 - 22 lead.
Lewes's long-suffering supporters feared the worst at this point but, as with all of their games this season, their team never gave up and continued to play with great spirit. This - combined with the following wind and OD's being forced to commit a series of fouls which saw them reduced to 13 players for the last 5 minutes - enabled the hosts to claw back and effectively "win" the second half, denying their opponents any more points. The fight-back began after 55 minutes with a charged-down try from second-row Charlie Cowling, which outside-half Dan Billin coolly kicked over from wide out to put his side's first points on the board at 7 - 22.
On 77 minutes Lewes pulled closer when, following one of OD's players being red carded for persistent offences, they won good ball to start an exhilarating move upfield, finished off after a fine run by outside-centre Harry Hanley near the posts, Billin adding the extras to make it 14 - 22. When Billin kicked over a long-range penalty a few minutes later to narrow the gap to 17 - 22, the crowd were beginning to believe that perhaps a remarkable come-back was on the cards. Unfortunately, however, Lewes's attacks in the dying minutes were often spoilt by unforced errors and they eventually ran out of time to snatch a victory which - on their second-half performance - they probably deserved.
After the match, the players voted inside-centre Jordan Whiting (pictured) - son of former Lewes Captain Dave Whiting - "Man of the Match".
Lewes: Hill, Hatch, Williams, Evans, Cowling, Jhole, Furse (Capt.), Robinson, Hewitt, Billin, Hampel, Whiting, Feltham, Hanley, Shiell. (Reps. all used: Bacha, Melloni, Terry).
Lewes 1st's are without a game on Saturday as their scheduled opponents, Hellingly, withdrew from the League some weeks ago. Their next game is not now until 2nd. March when they entertain high-flying Beecehamians, k.o. 3.00pm.(however, the 2nd's do have a fixture on Saturday, away to Crawley , k.o. 2.30pm).
On Friday evening, a Lewes Veterans XV played a Brighton Vets side under lights at Waterhall to celebrate former Lewes stalwart Tony Royall's 60th.birthday. With a team full of former players from Lewes's golden era, it was not surprising that they came out on top with a 34 - 0 victory, scoring 5 tries and 3 drop-goals in the process.