Pulborough captain Simon Burfiend was left to count the cost of early injuries as his side succumbed to their first draw of the season at Freelands.
Having already won six from seven at home this season, it was only the second time they haven’t recorded victory on home soil as Sussex rivals Eastbourne staged an expected second-half comeback.
The ‘Boro skipper, however, praised his side’s work rate to limit their opponents to 12 points in the second-half on what they feel is a 20-point slope.
This was after losing both scrum-half Tom Hoey to a dislocated knee and versatile Charlie Denman to a rib injury within five minutes of the start.
This left Pulborough with just one more replacement and left Burfiend to voice his frustration at league rules.
He said: “Unfortunately, we didn’t put the game to bed in the first half, after scoring three early tries it would have been nice to get the bonus-point try.
“However, the boys defended brilliantly, especially considering the injuries we suffered in the first five minutes.
“The slope is more often than not worth 20 points, so to keep a strong attacking Eastbourne pack to 12 points in the second half is a testament to the hard work put in during the second half in defence.
“With a real focus on line speed and winning the contact area paying dividends. However, with some players beginning to understandably tire, as a result of essentially only having one sub, which does make you question the practicality of the leagues rules to only have three subs in such a competitive, contact sport.”
“We put a real emphasis on our line speed this week which shut the Eastbourne attack before they got rolling.
“In attack we need to be smarter and acknowledge sooner that our strength is attacking in the wider channels, which is were the majority of our tries come from and not try to smash through larger packs, as we so often do.
With Pulborough losing the toss, Eastbourne opted to play uphill into the wind in the first half and the home side didn’t get off to the start they wanted.
After a few phases of Pulborough defending the first stoppage was as a result of Hoey going down injured with a dislocated knee, who was later taking to A&E.
The next came only a few minutes later as hooker, turned prop, Denman popped a rib, meaning two replacements for the home side.
Pulborough did however score first through second row Dan Bullock. The Pulborough runners worked their way down into the Eastbourne 22 and the ball was shipped wide to fly-half Sam Aviss who found himself in a gap.
With only the full-back left to beat he drew his man and found Bullock running a great supporting line on the inside to score under the posts - with Frazer Oliphant-Hope adding the extras.
Pulborough then tried to run the ball out, instead of clearing their lines and the ball was then knocked on giving Eastbourne an attacking scrum close to the try line.
This resulted in them making the most of an overlap to level the scores at 7-7 with the conversion.
Repeated infringements from Eastbourne close to their own try line then saw the referee show a yellow card, which Pulborough made the most of.
The forwards worked hard running around the corner to allow space for the backs to quickly get the ball along the blindside and Aviss saw a gap to score again.
Pulborough’s third and final try came from the base of a solid scrum which provided good clean ball to the back line, which was passed along toDan Paige’s hands, who sprinted in to score and Oliphant-Hope’s extras took the half-time score to 19-7.
The second half was largely dominated by the Eastbourne attack, with Pulborough defending valiantly for vast periods of the half.
Despite a valiant defensive effort from the home side going up the slope, Eastbourne scored two more tries in the second half and came close to scoring a third with a nail-biting finish seeing Eastbourne attacking Pulborough’s line right up until the final whistle.
Burfiend added: “Last time we faced Eastbourne in the same league as us was the 2013/14 Sussex 1 League where we beat them 40-5 and 24-7. This season Eastbourne turned those results around to a 32-24 win in the first round, and a 19-19 draw in the return fixture.
“Which is a testament to how much Eastbourne have improved, and is probably something as a team we should be looking at and acknowledging why we have not stepped up a level.”
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