Rye Rugby Club defeated the newly-crowned league champions in its final home game of the season.
The New Roaders won 24-18 against Sussex Intermediate League top dogs Bognor II on Saturday, extending their winning run to eight league matches in the process.
“It was a typical top-of-the-table clash between two teams determined to win,” said Rye coach Jeremy Nobbs. “It was a very, very good performance by us. The starting XV and the bench played well, and gave 100 percent commitment.
“We didn’t play at our absolute best, but we did show huge heart and determination. And even when things weren’t going right, we didn’t panic. We really fought hard for that game; we could easily have folded under the pressure we were under.”
Bognor’s very big and physical pack posed a few challenges for Rye up-front, but the hosts had the measure of their opponents in the front row - where Graham Nunn, Charlie Clark and Dean Blackford excelled - and had the edge in the backs.
Although Rye started well, Bognor struck first. Rye’s magnificent tryline defence kept Bognor out for quite a while until they succumbed to a try on the wing.
Rye came back with a sustained period of pressure of their own. Bognor defended well and turned over possession, but an attempted clearing kick was charged down by Gary Edmunds, who then gathered and scored in the corner to make it 5-5.
One area where Rye struggled was defending Bognor’s powerful driving maul following lineouts and one such situation resulted in the visitors’ second try.
Back came Rye once again. Veteran prop Nunn took a quick pass and charged more than 20 metres. Although he was tackled, Rye recycled well and shifted the ball from one side of the pitch to the other in a move which ended with Nunn collecting Ben Hassall’s pass and scoring in the corner.
That made it 10-10 at half time and although Bognor went ahead again with a penalty from more or less in front of the posts, Rye hit the front for the first time soon afterwards. A really good passage of play in which the ball was shifted through the backs’ hands led to Hassall scoring a fantastic winger’s try. Edmunds kicked the conversion to make it 17-13.
Although Bognor had a try disallowed as the referee deemed the ball wasn’t grounded, they went 18-17 up when they used their forward power to drive over the line.
Rye weren’t to be denied, though, and a training ground try gave them the victory. After good work by Gregg Phillips at scrum-half, Matt Cooke ran a great line to cut through the defence and score near the posts. Edmunds added the conversion.
Cooke and flanker Liam Booth shared the Harris & Rigby (estate agents) man of the match honours having shown enormous workrate and put in some huge tackles. A special mention is also due for Nunn, who sustained a serious Achilles injury during the second half.
On what the club called ‘John Izod Memorial Day’, Rye wore black armbands, held a minute’s silence and had a toast of champagne for a long-standing club member. John’s brother Patrick was guest of honour.
Despite the victory, Rye slid a couple of places to fifth in the table, although they are level on points with third-placed East Grinstead III and fourth-placed Heathfield & Waldron II. Rye are away to Grinstead in their final league fixture tomorrow (Saturday).
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