Within minutes of kick off, Gravesend were awarded a penalty for a high tackle and thus the match felt like it had really begun. With Eastleigh keeping much of the possession for themselves, it was fortunate that a knock-on was forced from the attacking side followed fairly quickly by another penalty going Gravesend’s way, this time for holding on. It wasn’t long, though, before Eastleigh broke through the strong Gravesend defence to open the scoring with a converted try.
Things still seemed to be going Eastleigh’s way in terms of possession, but Gravesend proved their strength and power with a solid scrum to launch an attack, only to see the ball stolen away from them with a knock-on in the tackle. Despite Eastleigh finding lots of gaps in Gravesend’s defence, they still gave away a lot of penalties and it was only down to Gravesend not being able to capitalise on them - not finding touch with the first and then losing the lineout from the second - that allowed Eastleigh to keep their slender lead.
It wasn’t just Gravesend making errors though, and a couple of fumbles from the hands of the Eastleigh backs gave hope to a frustrated Gravesend side. That hope, however, was quickly diminished when an almost certain try-scoring opportunity was missed after a great run from Junior Rocket put the Gs in a fantastic position, only for the final pass to be knocked-on into touch. Eastleigh ruined their own try-scoring chance in an almost identical manner at the other end of the pitch almost immediately afterwards.
Whilst Gravesend’s defence was sublime at times, it was clear that players and supporters alike were growing frustrated with their inability to get a score on the board and half time saw Eastleigh with a one-try lead at just 0-7.
The restart after half-time saw Eastleigh with most of the ball yet again, but errors were certainly starting to creep in and Gravesend’s set pieces seemed unfaltering. Again, a number of penalties were heading Gravesend’s way, but even a yellow card for Eastleigh’s number 5 couldn’t see them cross the white wash until three-quarters of the way through the match when Marc Klus managed to get the ball over the line from a stolen scrum. The extras couldn’t be added but the gap had definitely been narrowed: 5-7.
This seemed to give Gravesend an extra shot of adrenaline and a driving maul that travelled a third of the pitch inspired the forwards to get the ball quickly through the hands, only for the referee to decide it had been held up over the line. Not to worry though, as a drive from the forwards allowed Klus to pick the ball up from the back of the scrum to score his, and the team’s, second try of the match. This time, the conversion was no problem and Gravesend had the lead at 12-7.
A second yellow card for Eastleigh, this time for one of the props, meant the visitors had to see out the remainder of the match being one man down and Gravesend could claim the victory.
Today’s captain, Charlie Cutting, is full of excitement for the season to begin next weekend and, despite the team having a slow start, believes this match was something they needed in order to be able to prove they can come back to take the win after falling behind. He gave all credit to Eastleigh in terms of the frustration felt at not being able to score to begin with and is quite happy with three wins out of three heading into the start of the league.
Gravesend officially begin their season with a home fixture against Hayward’s Heath next Saturday 14th September, kick off at 3pm.
Match Report written by Fran Holmes