But, after a string of friendlies that saw Gravesend go from strength to strength in showcasing their talents, defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.
The match had a shaky start from both sides: Haywards Heath knocking the ball on from kick-off; Gravesend earning a penalty from a scrum but then missing the kick. Gravesend took an early 3-0 lead thanks to a penalty kick from Rhys Betts. A superb catch and kick from Gary Gray enabled a solid lineout and a period of Gravesend possession. But a penalty for each side without either capitalising on it meant the score didn’t look like it was going to change anytime soon.
Gravesend’s set pieces looked, not for the first time this season, very strong and decent ground was made from each one. However, the boys in black and white had a string of giving away possession and penalties, although somehow managed to get the ball back on each occasion.
Two yellow cards for Haywards Heath looked promising for Gravesend, but every time they crept close to scoring, the ball was lost. It seemed for all the onlookers that the two sides were just swapping possession without doing much with it. The half-time score remained a narrow 3-0 to Gravesend.
A good start to the second half saw a strong scrum and good hands, but then a panicked pass into touch. Gravesend looked to start strongly but play was still mainly in the mid-field. Two more yellow cards for Haywards Heath did see Gravesend break the defence and a try by Ziggy Stevens, after a drive from the scrum, took the score to 8-0.
After an exciting passage of play that saw everyone’s focus back on the match, play was back to being mid-field and there were limited chances to score. Penalties were all going Gravesend’s way, but they just couldn’t capitalise on the advantages they were being given. Both teams ran the length of the pitch in attack but it was Haywards Heath who scored next to take the points tally to a very close 8-7. Just as it looked to end with a narrow 1-point victory for Gravesend, Haywards Heath took the ball, found a gap and took the lead with a converted try. Final score: 8-14.
Gary Gray, sin binned in the dying moments of the match, was naturally frustrated with the day’s events. He acknowledged that the team needed to make more of the two-man advantage and said things got a bit disjointed at the end, although gave credit to the front five for working hard to get over the ball and win possession when it was needed. In true sportsman spirit, he gave tribute to Haywards Heath saying that they were just too good for Gravesend on the day. There is lots to work on before their next match, against Dover on Saturday 21st September, 3pm.
Match report written by Fran Holmes