Rye Rugby Club was narrowly beaten in a thoroughly entertaining contest at New Road on Saturday.
Rye recovered from 17-0 down to trail just 27-26 at one stage before a converted try right at the end gave Newick a 34-26 victory in Sussex Division Two.
“It was a massive improvement by everybody,” said Rye coach Jeremy Nobbs, comparing the performance to the previous weekend’s cup defeat at Midhurst.
“We talked frankly about the need for discipline and self-control, and it was a great performance by our lads. It was a very exciting game and we could’ve taken it, but we didn’t.”
Newick fielded a well-organised, streetwise side which played competitive rugby and the visitors took charge with three tries in the opening 25 minutes, one of which was converted.
Rye weren’t seeing much of the ball at that stage, but slowly they started to get on terms. The scrum - given a bit more steel by a couple of new players - began functioning better and that gave Rye an opportunity to start attacking.
A couple of well-constructed attacks weren’t quite successful, but a third one was. After a sustained period of play between forwards and backs, good attacking ball led to Matt Cooke making a line break and scoring to the left of the posts. Chris Edwards converted to make it 17-7 at half time.
Rye applied pressure almost immediately in the second half, but couldn’t put any more points on the scoreboard and Newick, who had a very good pick-and-go game, scored their fourth try to lead 22-7.
The hosts then enjoyed a purple patch, during which they scored two more tries to get right back in contention at 22-19.
Rye debutant Kai Ap-Bryn managed to scramble over near the posts for the first of them after Newick showed great defence to survive ruck after ruck on their five-metre line. Edwards again added the conversion.
Rye were now starting to dominate the ball. Great work by the forwards to create quick ball was followed by slick hands in the backs and Gary Edmunds scored out wide.
Newick went over for another try to lead 27-19, but back came Rye once more. With the forwards again producing quick ball and scrum-half Ap-Bryn delivering good service to the backs, Edmunds sold an outrageous dummy and went over near the post. Edwards converted to make it 27-26.
Both sides were going at it hammer and tongs, and Rye got close to Newick’s line but were unable to cross it. A massive Newick clearing kick took play right down the other end and sustained pressure ended with them scoring a converted try on their left.
Rye’s man of the match was captain Rory Creavin, who made lots of metres and offloaded well.
Having struggled for numbers for much of the season, Rye actually had too many players on this occasion. Some 23 men were available for selection with only 20 places in the matchday squad.
“Not long ago things were looking quit bleak, but suddenly they’re looking a lot more positive,” added Nobbs. “It’s a much, much happier picture than it was back in February.”
Rye are without a league fixture this coming Saturday as scheduled opponents Sussex Police have scratched so they were instead hoping to arrange a friendly.
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