Barns Green were expecting a tough battle from Ditchling - with two yellow cards, plenty of big hits and exciting breaks no one watching was left feeling short changed.
Full Time: Barns Green: (10) 19 Ditchling: (8) 11
Tries: Cooper Cons: Cooper (1) Pen: Cooper (4)
Nick Cooper secured all of Barns Green's points kicking over 4 penalties, 1 conversion and diving over for one try to secure an opening win for the men in green and gold. Ditchling were not without their own as they ran through one try and kicked over two penalties to keep the game close until a Cooper penalty in the 70th minute gave Barns Green daylight.
This contest was always going to be a tough physical match up. Every game Barns Green and Ditchling have played against each other have proven that to be the case and this was no different. Coming off a 71 - 5 thrashing of Steyning, Ditchling arrived at the field of dreams with a big team and a lot of confidence however Barns Green were quietly confident after a positive pre season.
Made to work for the victory
Despite the score line, it was a close game for the whole 80 minutes. Neither team managed to get a two score cushion until the closing moments with Cooper slotting over a 35 metre penalty but even then, Ditchling had 10 minutes to hit back and with their electric back line and tough forwards there was every possibility they could.
Much of the opening 20 minutes was down in the Ditchling 22 and you felt Barns Green were only moments from opening the score but whether it was early season nerves or simply lack of game time they could not convert. After some fantastic work clearing the rucks and giving the backs fast ball a huge overlap opened up time and time again but each time the men in Green and Gold could not convert.
As the chances were wasted, Ditchling began to get into the game as they used the pace of their back three to full effect. Opening up the Barns Green midfield, they tore through and after a number of phases created an overlap and got the first score of the game.
Often when a team has had so much possession yet have nothing to show for it, a score the other way can cause heads to drop but not in this instance. Barns Green rallied and went straight back to applying the pressure.
It didn't take long for Barns Green to open their account. A breakaway from the midfield gave Barns Green brilliant position as they piled on the pressure. Some quick ball and heavy carries put Ditchling on the back foot before Nick Cooper got the ball, stepped back in a drove to the line scoring under the sticks to make it 7 -5.
Yellow Cards and Stern Words
This season, the new tackle height came into effect and the referee was very clear in the pre game chat about what now constituted a high tackle however it was apparent that both teams at times were struggling to adapt. The penalty count started to climb and both teams took advantage with Ditchling snatching back the lead with a penalty before Barns Green answered back with their own just before half time.
Eventually after warnings from the referee the first yellow card appeared for Ditchling's number 6 after a dangerous clear out on former Ditchling flanker Nick Coulson who was attempting a jackal. Barns Green weren't totally innocent either with a number of high tackle penalties keeping Ditchling in the game and in the last 10 minutes a yellow card for substitute Lawrence Robinson who was deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball on and stopping a breakaway.
Huge Physical Battle
As mentioned, this game was billed as a huge contest that would test the physicality and fitness of both teams and it did not disappoint.
Jarod Van Blerk crashed into the Ditchling lines time and time again and to Ditchling's credit only let him slip through twice. Matt Sercombe equally tested the Ditchling defensive with strong carries and offloads. On the defensive side, some major turn overs in the red zone showed Barns Green's discipline. Notable moments were Jos Lee's turn over on the wing in the first half, Thomas Bouet and Nick Coulson's counter rucking work and Charlie Adams making a try line stand against Ditchling number 8 with the ref deeming that he was successfully held up over the line.
The biggest moment came in the dying minutes of the game with Barns Green a man down and Ditchling mounting an attack. Carl Brewster, who was carrying a small knock, managed to ruck over and win the penalty to the roars of the Barns Green players which near enough secured the win on the opening day.
A Big Win to Start the Season
As the referee announced the clock was in the red and Barns Green holding an 8 point lead, Ditchling looked to get a losing bonus point but once again, the Barns Green defence held firm and 5 metres out Ditchling knocked the ball on to bring the final whistle.
This was a big game for both teams and no doubt Ditchling will already be looking to exact revenge on the return fixture but for now Barns Green can sit happy knowing they have won the first battle.
Captain James Dickson said "I wanted this win so much and to get this season off to a winning start. At the moment I can't think of the words to describe how proud I am of the team and their efforts. Notable mentions to Harry Smith who won the VP Man of the Match award for is debut at the Field of Dreams, Nick Cooper who got Captains Man of the Match, Nick Coulson, Carl Brewster, Will Staples, Jos Lee, Rory Yeates and Matt Sprigge... the list goes on, every player was massive today"
This win will no doubt give Barns Green massive confidence as they head to top of the table Hove for their next game on Saturday. There is a long season ahead and one good game doesn't guarantee success but if they can replicate this performance throughout then this is going to be one hell of a season.
Man of the Match
Team Sheet 1 Dane Gingell
2 Paddy Pritchard 3 James Dickson (C) 4 Will Staples
5 Carl Brewster 6 Harry smith (Harry Davies)
7 Nick Coulson 8 Matt Sercombe
9 Tom Bouet
10 Matt Sprigge 11 Charlie Adams
12 Nick Cooper 13 Jarod Van Blerk 14 Jos Lee (Carl Humphrey) 15 Rory Yeates (Lawrence Robinson)
16 Carl Humphrey
17 Lawrence Robinson
18 Harry Davies
19 George Wilson