Barns Green may have beaten Midhurst in their past 4 meetings, but they were to face their toughest test against the men in yellow so far this season as they returned to Cowdrey Ruins. Barns Green were motivated by their charge towards Sussex Division 1 and Midhurst were set out to make sure this season was not a whitewash against their rivals.
The game started as expected with both teams revealing their physical intentions from the first moment. Either team could have crossed the line in the first 15 minutes, with sustained attacks and the pressure building on both defenses, it was only a matter of when not if one side was going to crack.
Frustration started to mount for BG after visiting the Midhurst try line several times without leaving with any points. With the wind blowing strong it was clear that the breakthrough was going to come from patient play in the pack rather than the backs. The penalty count started climbing for both sides as they traded blows in the center of the park when the Barns Green’s forwards dominated the scrum and pushed Midhurst back over their own try line winning the ball against the head for Carl Brewster to tap the ball down.
After a succession of cheap penalties against Barns Green, Midhurst found themselves returning the favor, knocking on the door at the five-meter line towards the end of the first half. With mounting pressure, it seemed as if Midhurst had finally broken through when they went over the line, only for the referee to controversially call the ball held up. Barns Green had survived although the pressure was still on. The resulting scrum led to Midhurst probing the BG line with only some last-ditch tackles holding them at bay. After several phases, Midhurst were rewarded with a try when Midhurst’s flanker, Grant Prudente, found a hole open up in the defense and casually took advantage.
The teams entered half time evens at 5-5 and a few injuries were evidence of a physical showdown. As the whistle blew to begin the second half, both teams were set in for another 40 mins of hard front up rugby. What they didn’t expect was a try within the first minute of the kickoff. With Midhurst starting the second half, the ball fell kindly into Connor Pascoe’s arms who ran back at the advancing Midhurst line. Midhurst were caught napping as Pascoe broke several tackles to get into the backfield and began a lovely series of passing and offloads between the forwards. Barns Green took advantage of the disjointed defense, tearing down the field only for the ball to finish back in Pascoe’s arms to deservedly finish the move that he started. Barns Green slotted through the conversion to take the lead 12-5.
After the try, both teams prepared themselves for 35 minutes of intense defending with Midhurst going over Barns Green try line only for it to be held up again. Barns Green also had their opportunities when Nick Lewis collected a Midhurst kick and took on the Midhurst line with success only for Barns Green to commit another penalty on the try line. Both teams scorned their missed opportunities, but this was a day for the defense as they both successfully shut each other out. Barns Green were lucky not to concede any more points as they gave Midhurst ample opportunity to take a shot at goal from the mounting penalty count. The boot of Matthew Hoyte and Nick Lewis began to dull the Midhurst attack with Barns Green, in the fashion of the game, throwing away the last chance of the game to add points before the referee blew the final whistle.
After the game, coach Neil Bailey said “Our lack of discipline could have cost us this match and that is something we will need to address before we travel to Guernsey. Apart from one mistake, our defensive effort was possibly the strongest we’ve been all season. Pascoe’s try was a thing of beauty and just reward for his performance”.
Barns Green managed to overcome a real test that asked some questions of their composure in the final third and of their defense. On another day, Midhurst could have taken the victory, but it wasn’t to be as Barns Green overcame this war of attrition. Next week, Barns Green fly to league leaders Guernsey for the penultimate game of the season.
Midhurst 5 Banrs Green 12