RUGBY: Crawley 27 Burgess Hill 30 - Champions suffer second defeat of successful season

Crawley Rugby Club lift the Sussex League trophy SUS-171004-210450002
Crawley Rugby Club lift the Sussex League trophy SUS-171004-210450002
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Having been crowned league champions the previous week, Crawley suffered only their second league defeat of the season against Burgess Hill on Saturday.

Crawley, for the fifth consecutive fixture opened the scoring within a couple of minutes of the kick-off.

Action from Crawley v Burgess Hill
Picture by Ross Hallifax SUS-171104-100519002

Action from Crawley v Burgess Hill Picture by Ross Hallifax SUS-171104-100519002

Wing Fraser Thompson crossed inside two minutes for the first of his three tries on the day.

The visitors’ response came seven minutes later and typified their approach of close quarter work, looking to utilise their strength and size over Crawley’s mobility and pace.

A driving maul, following a line-out, close to the Crawley line saw the first of the visitors’ tries.

Hill’s dominance resulted in two further tries before half-time.

Action from Crawley v Burgess Hill
Picture by Ross Hallifax SUS-171104-100507002

Action from Crawley v Burgess Hill Picture by Ross Hallifax SUS-171104-100507002

On 28 minutes Thompson scored his second try following a well-worked play from a line-out.

A penalty from full-back Andy Evans moved the scoreboard to 15–22 as the half-time whistle went.

Trailing by just seven points at the interval and turning round with the wind on their backs put the champions in a confident mood.

The sapping heat caused the visitors to slow the game at every opportunity.

The second half began with Thompson again crossing the line within minutes of the start as he outpaced the covering defence to touch down, 20–22.

Crawley regained the lead with the best score of the day, with Burgess Hill struggling to clear the lines against the wind.

The kick was gathered by Thompson, who beat three defenders on his way across the field linking up with centre Ali Moffat, who straightened and beat defenders on his own before offloading out of a tackle to Joe Callus who managed to free the ball from the despairing tackle to feed second row Kieran Gosling to gallop in under the posts.

Converted, the champions led 27–22 with 17 minutes remaining.

From the restart, stand out prop Craig Mansfield sustained a cut to his head which forced him from the game and the dominance he had led at the scrum and his good work at the breakdown was to be missed.

The final stages of the game saw Crawley receive two yellow cards, earlier cynical infringements having gone unpunished but clearly the patience of the match official had expired and with only 13 men on the field the visitors capitalised and crossed the line in the 37th minute to lead 30–27.

As the final whistle blew Burgess Hill were clearly delighted to have toppled the champions but resigned to another season in Sussex Leagues.

Crawley celebrate and begin their preparations for their first season in the London Leagues since 2011.