Blues hold out for a hard fought victory
Brighton went into the weekends fixture as clear under dogs facing one of the league's top performing teams this season. Tunbridge Wells had beaten the Blues earlier in the season with relative ease however Brighton had seen their recent form lift them out of the relegation zone.
The Blues lost the coin toss and played the opening half down the slope with a strong wind behind them. They were dealt an early blow when the in-form Joe Hoare was sent to the bin in the first minute for a high tackle.
It was however the Blues who got off the mark first when Joel Forward stole the ball at a break down and unleashed Zac Downey to score his 5th try in as many games from inside his own half. Lewis Evans was unable to add the conversion.
Despite the wind Wells enjoyed some decent possession and territory however they were unable to break the Brighton defence so resorted to kicking in behind the line where Simon Lilley and Lewis Evans were able to easily clear down field past the Wells 10m line.
Brighton's scrum started to get the upper hand after an unsettled first 20 minutes and when Wells picked up a yellow card they struggled to contain the Blues pack who earned a Penalty try after a close range scrum broke apart. Evans converted to make it 0-12.
Knowing they would need a larger cushion given the impending 2nd half head wind, Blues pushed hard in search of more points. A third try did come when a handling error from the Wells 15 fell to the ever-present Onke Nesi who drew 3 defenders before offloading to Rob Fogerty who perfectly timed a pass to skipper Joel Forward to score unopposed.
Wells then had a spell of pressure in the Blues 22 and after a team warning was issued by the referee, Joel Forward was sent to the bin for infringing at the breakdown close the try line.
Some huge notable hits from Wes Barrett, Jordan Whythe and Will Hoare in a heroic defensive performance prevented Wells from scoring before the half to ensure the Blues had a minimal 3 score cushion.
Wells came out of the half time break at full pace, pinning Brighton deep in their half from the start. They pressed hard with long spells of possession however were struggling to break the dogged determination of the Blues and challenge the try line.
Wells did however get off the mark when a clearing kick was charged down and fell to the advancing Wells back line. After some last ditch tackling the Wells backs were able to keep the ball alive long enough for veteran and ex Blues player Fionn McCloughlin to dot down close to the posts. The conversion was missed when the ball toppled from the kicking tee in the wind. 5-17.
With the clock ticking towards 65 minutes Brighton realised that they may be worthy of a full victory and not just the bonus point they had been tasked with attaining. They slowed the game to a snail pace, managed superbly by scrum half Ben Herbe, enjoying long periods of possession in their own territory, frustrating Wells with every phase.
When James Trevis broke the gainline the game opened up and the Blues looked to play more expansively, however a strong tackle from the Wells 15 turned play on its head as he kicked ahead and pounced on the ball to ensure they were just a score from winning the game in the closing exchanges.
Wells threw everything at the Blues defensive line in the final 10 minutes. Brighton were able to match everything that Wells could muster and eventually were rewarded when a penalty at scrum time enable the Blues to clear out of their 22 and play out the final minutes of the game.
Brighton had shocked Wells but they were good for the win. A mature performance in tough conditions has now lifted them 8 points clear of relegation and 8 points from mathematical safety.
The week ahead will be another tough one when Maidstone visit Waterhall and Brighton will have to be at their best yet again.
Match photos taken by Dave Beech and Martin Finch
Supporters Man of the Match was 1-18 for the squad performance.