Sudbury captain Justin Burton has tipped his side to respond in the best possible fashion after their agonising top-of-table defeat to Diss.
The visitors held a one-point advantage over their hosts going into the match after both had enjoyed perfect starts to the campaign, and the encounter more than lived up to all pre-match expectations as a close battle ensued.
But despite rallying back from a 17-5 deficit at the break and dominating much of the second-half, Sudbury could not quite turn their mounting pressure into a victory as Diss held firm to strengthen their position at the top of the league.
However, despite failing to hide his disappointment at the end of the match, Burton heaped praise on his young squad and backed them to bounce back and return to winning ways when they travel to Saffron Walden on Saturday (3pm).
“It was a real battle and we are pretty gutted to have lost,” said the skipper, whose side are now third, four points adrift of Diss.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose, but we showed second half how good we can be.
“We didn’t give up and had them running scared second half.
“Unfortunately we just couldn’t complete the comeback and they won the game, which is fair play for them hanging in at the end.
“There was a lot of talk prior to the game about our inexperience which we found disrespectful, and we’ve proved we can match anyone.
“The conditions didn’t suit our game, we had players missing, and we still almost managed to beat them, so we have to be proud of ourselves.
“It is still very early days. We are still near the top of the league and there are three-quarters of the season still left to go.
“It is just a blip from our point of view, and we will react next week against Saffron Walden.
“The reaction from this is the most important thing, and we will go again.
“We are a very young team, and the sky is the limit for a lot of these players who will go on and achieve big things.”
Amidst the howling wind and rain at Whittome Field it was the visitors who started the stronger with the conditions suiting their ruck and maul style of play.
And it was their superior strength in the pack that allowed them to break the deadlock after 15 minutes as mounting pressure from a scrum in the right-hand corner finally allowed Paul Cauley to bundle over. Lelieve’s resulting conversion fell wide of the posts as the visitors held a five-point advantage.
However, the visitors soon suffered a setback as John Bergin was sin-binned after 21 minutes, leaving them a man down.
Sudbury were quick to take advantage and levelled two minutes later as a flowing move from right to left released Austin Beckett to race clear and score. Tom Summers took responsibilty with the conversion but could not add the extras as his kick dropped wide.
The visitors responded strongly to the setback and got themselves back in front after 29 minutes as their superior strength proved pivotal once again.
Mounting pressure in the right-hand corner once again saw Diss gain territory in the ruck before Fraser Hall got the ball down over the line. This time Lelieve’s kick sailed between the posts to give the visitors a 12-5 lead.
With the conditions underfoot worsening, the visitors’ style of play again reaped rewards as a dominant scrum on the left-hand side allowed them to gain territory before McLure picked up the ball and raced clear down the wing to score and unconverted try giving Diss a 17-5 advantage at the interval.
With the second-half just eight minutes old the visitors saw themselves reduced to 13 men as both Richards and Craven were yellow carded for separate incidents, handing the initiative to the home side.
And they were quick to capitalise on their superior numerical advantage as a lightning quick break down the right-hand side saw the lively Austin Beckett release the impressive Shaun Smith to crash over in the corner. Summers just failed with the difficult conversion attempt but the deficit had been reduced with the score at 17-10.
The momentum continued with Sudbury who got themselves level after 65 minutes. Smith received the ball in the centre of the field before exploding down the right-hand side once again, evading four challenges to score a brilliant individual effort.
This time Colin Humphreys took responsibility with the conversion and slotted his effort perfectly between the posts to bring the score to 17-17.
However, their endeavours were soon undone as they handed the visitors a golden opportunity after 66 minutes by conceding a needless penalty 30-yards out in a central position.
Lelieve took responsibility and made no mistake, slotting his effort straight between the posts to give Diss a vital three-point lead.
And it would be an advantage they would not relinquish in a frantic final 15 minutes in which tempers flared resulting in Diss’ Jamie Burrows and Sudbury’s Humphreys being sin-binned, as the visitors held out to seal what could prove a vital victory come the end of the season.
Sudbury: 1 Barry, 2 Dedross, 3 Hare, 4 Nakevill, 5 Taylor, 6 Whybrow, 7 Thurlow, 8 Burton (c), 9 F Beckett, 10 Humphreys, 11 A Beckett, 12 Summers, 13 Wright, 14 Jackson, 15 Smith. Replacements: 16 Johnson, 17 Taylor, 18 Maile.
Free Press Man of The Match: Shaun Smith.