With the mince pies and the Christmas Trees a distant memory, Barns Green headed to Ditchling in a game that they could have won but fell just short in the dying moments.
Full Time: Ditchling: 19 (12) Barns Green: (0) 10
Tries: Coulson Cons: Cooper Pen: Sprigge
Barns Green headed to Ditchling in the hopes of making it two from two against the Wild Pigs. After a long Christmas break, we were about to see which team could come out swinging in the bitterly cold start to 2024.
Heading into this fixture both teams sat next to each other on the table with only 4 points separating them both. With Barns Green already securing an away point, a win here would leapfrog them into third and set up an exciting run into the second half of the season.
Slow Starts Cost Barns Green Again
A running theme for the Green and Gold this year has been their slow starts and this was no different. With the temperature struggling to break freezing point, Barns Green struggled to find the spark. Ditchling, keen to avenge their earlier defeat, had hit the defrost button early with some hard running into the Green Wall. Whether it was the long break or the heavy ground, Barns Green just couldn't find a foothold as Ditchling kept the ball well and continued to probe the defences.
Ten minutes into the game, Ditchling's possession paid off. One of their kicks caused confusion in the Barns Green back three allowing their rapid backs to pounce on the opportunity and touch down for the first score.
Ditchling continued to press the line and Barns Green stood resolute although never managing to fully relieve the pressure as they constantly fought to keep Ditchling away from the red zone.
With both teams trading kicks, it was a lapse in concentration that gave Ditchling their second score. With no one in the backfield, Ditchling put in a low kick and a foot race between BGs Matt Sprigge and the Ditchling speedster led to another try.
Barns Green, despite not doing much wrong had sleepwalked into a 12 - 0 halftime deficit.
Tale of Two Halves
In these moments it can be so easy to let the heads drop despite the fix being so evident. Although Barns Green were down at the break, their strong defence meant it was only a two-score game where it could easily have been worse.
Some stern words from Club Captain Tom Bouet and Matchday Manager Geroge Wilson rallied the troops and with the last of the mince pies burnt off, Barns Green started to play. Matt Sercombe started to find holes with his trademark runs and the momentum swung heavily to the visiting side. Fullback Rory Yeates caught a swirling high ball and started to weave through the scattered defenders - one beaten, 2nd shrugged off, the third sidestepped. Only a deliberate trip ended the run – a yellow card to Ditchling and 3 points slotted by Matt Sprigge to give Barns Green hope.
Again Barns Green went through the gears and a scrum in the Ditchling 22 gave Barns Green the perfect platform to attack. After some disciplined phase play, BG found themselves only metres from the line. A previous visit was thrown away but not on this occasion. Ditchling, desperate to get off the line allowed Tom Bouet to dart through, only to be tackled on the try line but the ever-present Nick Coulson picked up and finished off making it a 2-point game with 15 minutes to play.
Back to a full complement, Ditchling regathered their composure – probing in behind with long kicks but Barns Green kept coming back, the momentum swing between the teams. Both teams were looking exhausted when Barns Green, 5 metres from their line, won a scrum penalty with nothing left on the clock.
Opting to tap and go as the line hadn’t been a strong point, they made big yards with heavy running and neat offloading.
With options running out and players fatigued, flyhalf Matt Sprigge opted to kick long and put the game to a foot race however Ditchling's number 8 charged it down and regathered the ball. A simple walk-in from 30 metres stole the losing bonus point from Barns Green and gave all the spoils to Ditchling.
Bitter Defeat for the Green and Gold
The match showcased the competitive spirit of both teams, with Ditchling demonstrating their ability to capitalize on opportunities and Barns Green displaying resilience in defence. With this contest always being a hard battle it is no surprise that neither team could run away with it. Ditchling will walk away from this game happy extending the gap to 6 points and closing in on Eastbourne 2s.
Barns Green will feel extremely disappointed that they didn't get anything from the game. Despite being down at half time their resilience that has been present this whole season shone in the second half and to only be 2 points adrift with moments to go you could forgive the Green and Gold for thinking they could go on to win it.
However, it was not to be and they look towards their next fixture against Hove 3s who sit second in the table.
Man of the Match
1 Joe Spencer-Smith
2 Paddy Pritchard
3 Dane Gingell
4 James Dickson (C)
5 Mark Brown
6 Carl Brewster
7 Nick Coulson
8 Matt Sercombe
9 Tom Bouet
10 Matt Sprigge
11 Jack Bone
12 Nick Cooper
13 Noah Middleton
14 Bryn Jones
15 Rory O’Reardon-Yeates