The final whistle marked the end of a strong performance which has left Barns Green ruing a missed opportunity as they fail to bounce back from their loss the previous week.
The autopsy of Barns Green's defeat is likely to be in full swing. It certainly wasn't the lack of heart or physicality that cost Barns Green points against Haywards Heath and only being 8 points behind at the 50th minute, it's hard to see where it went wrong.
Barns Green were keen to bounce back from their defeat to Haywards Heath in the previous week at the Field of Dreams. Confidence, although slightly dented, was still in abundance as the boys were set for another physical show down. Even with last minute drop outs from the squad due to covid and injury, they still believed they could come away from Whiteman's Green with a result based from their performance in the reverse fixture.
The game started off as expected. Haywards Heath were off the mark quickly and it was clear that they had bought the physicality early on with some strong running by their forwards before unleashing their fast back line against a stretched defence. A series of flat passes saw Haywards Heath break through the first line before being snuffed out by the covering Barns Green tacklers.
Smart use of the conditions meant Haywards Heath kept Barns Green pinned in their own half for the opening 20 minutes. As they ramped up the pressure, they managed to get two quick scores out wide after pulling in the defence. Despite good covering tackles Barns Green were unable to hold out and after a third try they found themselves 15-0 down.
It felt like this game could run away from the green and gold. The home crowd were loud, Haywards Heath were physical and there was already a sense in the air of heads dropping. Barns Green needed a reply and it came in the form of James Dickson fresh off his first try last week. The forwards worked hard all day smashing into the Haywards Heath defence and it finally paid off. James Dickson picking a gap at the guard and smashed his way over for the try.
Just before half time Barns Green managed what felt like a big win in swinging the momentum. With Haywards Heath charging at the lines, Sprigge and Brewster managed to win a turn over in their own 22 with only 40 seconds left on the clock. Barns Green were only trailing by 8 points, had just won a turn over in their 22 and after all of Haywards Heath's possession they were still within striking distance. They were still in the game and still up for the fight.
Haywards Heath were starting to build a large penalty count and saw one of their men head off for 10 minutes as repeated infringements saw the first yellow card come out. Everything was set for Barns Green to take advantage but they couldn't. They found themselves in great positions but they just couldn't convert it into points. A mixture of both handling errors and decision making ultimately let the men in green and gold down. Despite this, it felt like it would still happen for them however the first heavy body blow was when Hayward Heath turned the ball over and ran down the field to score. You could hear the collective disappointment through the BG ranks as all of their hard work wasn't paying off and from this moment on, it just felt like it wasn't going to be their day.
Lack of clinical finishing has nearly cost them in the past but it finally caught them out
In previous games it has been felt that Barns Green do all the hard work in the build up but seem to stumble at the last hurdle and this was no different. Despite scoring well in other games, it feels as if they still have not displayed their best and most potent attacking potential.
Having said that, there were some outstanding displays of courage within the ranks and despite Haywards Heath running in tries to put the game to bed, there was still a hunger to fight back. "Lads, be proud and never give up" were the calls from the senior members of the team and every player answered that call. Never shirking from a tackle and they continued to carry the ball hard until the very final whistle.
They may be down but never out
Barns Green have three huge games left this season and they will be eager to bounce back and get a result in all three. Their first game will be against Worthing at home and it feels like this is a crucial game if they are to find their groove again. The Green and Gold may be a little wounded but they have been here before and they have always come back fighting. It's within their DNA and they are known for their unfathomable ability to bounce back from loss stronger than before.
Although they lost this battle, their determination to fight on proves they have what it takes to get back on track. Knowing they didn't have anyone on the bench and not wanting to let their team mates down, a number of players who took big hits got back up and continued the fight and that's one of the positives they can take out of this. Their bodies may be hurting but their desire and determination is bigger than ever.
Man of the Match
1. Matt Taylor
2. Stephen Whittington
3. Danny Conway
4. James Dickson
5. George Smith
6. Tom Smith
7. Nick Coulson
8. Carl Brewster (vc)
9. Thomas Bouët (c)
10. Matthew Hoyte
11. George Wilson
12. Lewis Dodsley
13. Liam Yeates
14. Gage Pestridge
15. Matthew Sprigge
16. Mike Mann