Uckfield travelled to 2nd placed Crawley on a rather wet and blustery afternoon to contest this top of the table clash, writes Matthew Evans.
The Acorns were forced to make a number of changes from last week’s victory over Seaford due to various injuries and unavailability.
Up front Adam Palmer started at prop with regular Davy Armstrong moving to hooker.
In the back row, George Payne, a regular on the wing, started his first ever senior game in the pack at blindside. The back line welcomed the return of Ian Page-Mitchell and Ben Cranfield.
With the rain having eased off quarter of an hour before kick off, Uckfield were clearly not ready for the confrontation ahead.
The kick off was taken well and cleared but an instant Crawley counterattack, led to a try for the hosts within the first minute. The conversion was missed but Uckfield were needing to wake up quickly.
It didn’t take too long before Uckfield had possession in the Crawley half and following good line out ball and two phases, and a good angled run from second row Harry Harper-Dowe went crashing over for Uckfield’s first points.
Charlie Buckland converted giving Uckfield a slim 7-5 lead after just eight minutes.
Uckfield were hoping to find their stride after the first score but it was Crawley who had the upper hand, keeping hold of the ball and showing ambition to play with width, even in the wet conditions.
Crawley would score after three quick phases, leaving a hole on the narrow side for the Crawley winger to slide in for their second score. Uckfield were quick to retake the lead with a penalty sailing over the uprights two minutes later.
This seemed to wake Uckfield up, finally they began building much better phases of play, working well from the line out with strong direct running from both centres and the game being controlled well by Buckland.
Another penalty against Crawley resulted in a line out eight meters from the host’s line.
After a strong catch and drive and powerful forward work from the tight five, it was back row new boy Payne who drove over, adding to his season’s try tally in a slightly less glamorous manner than the pervious weeks’ efforts.
Uckfield continued to pressurise for the rest of the first half but were only able to turn this into three points from a penalty thanks to the boot of the robust Buckland on the stroke of half time. 18-10 to Uckfield going into the break.
The second period started brightly for Uckfield with forwards and backs linking well together in attack and working hard to hold off any Crawley attack.
The counter drive at line out was impressive with Uckfield able to withstand a well-organised Crawley pack from crossing the whitewash.
Quarter of an hour into the second half following some excellent interplay between the Uckfield backline, Crawley were penalised again for not realising and Buckland added three more points.
21-10 with 20 minutes to go, The Acorns were pushing hard to extend the lead.
A disallowed try would have put the game out of reach for Crawley but while both sets of players were convinced a try had been scored, the referee deemed a knock-on had occurred, to everyone’s surprise.
Crawley did manage to score a break away try with three mins left on the clock which they duly converted leaving Uckfield with a nervous final couple of minutes but a knock on brought the game to a close 21-17 to Uckfield.
Given the conditions, both teams managed to play some good expansive rugby, worked hard in defensive and played the game in outstanding competitive spirits.
Uckfield march on to face Ditchling next week which is bound to be another tough affair given the weather forecast.