OLD Gravesendians secured promotion to the London leagues for the first time in their history after a hard-fought play-off victory over Uckfield.

In fact, Old Gs can count themselves rather fortunate to have survived this one, defending a slender lead for the whole second half against their determined and able opponents from Sussex One.

Survive they did, however, and they now enter the London Four SE, where they will join Kent One champions Medway next season.

Old Gs have never played Uckfield before and knew nothing about them, except to be impressed by the fact they only a couple of weeks ago lost 15-12 to Sussex One champions and National Junior Vase finalists Brighton.

What Uckfield presented on the day was a very fit team with a strong pack, good at the basics, combined with young fast backs.

This looked to be a winning combination and for long periods, Old Gs’ touchline support could only see one winner and it wasn’t their side.

The support was tremendous. A hundred had travelled from Uckfield and they joined a couple of hundred Old Gs supporters to make for a great atmosphere on a sunny afternoon.

Gravesend Rowing Club also attended in force after their team had played an Old Gs XV in a preliminary fixture to the main event.

Old Gs made the perfect start, Richard Oxtoby slotting a penalty in the opening minutes.

This was the only score for most of the first half as Old Gs tried desperately to unlock the visiting defences while playing with the advantage of wind and slope. It just did not happen.

The nearest they came to a score was when Oxtoby put in a long cross kick, which was inches too long for Michael Hodge, waiting to touch down.

From the early plays, the omens were not good for a home side victory.

Old Gs started to be squeezed in the set scrums by the strong visiting eight.

Their own ball was disrupted at best, sometimes stolen or the whole unit was wheeled.

This was not Gravesendians’ only failing as their lineout started to lose a lot of its own ball.

Possession was becoming a big problem, resulting in a lack of ball for Old Gs’ dangerous strike runners, who remained redundant for long periods.

The one positive from the first half was the fact Gravesendians’ defence coped fairly easily with the few thrusts made by the visitors, who seemed intent on playing an expansive running game despite the obvious strengths of their pack.

If defences win games, Old Gs’ renowned defence certainly won this one.

As half-time approached, both team’s kickers missed straightforward shots at goal.

A try seemed to be scored by Richard Oxtoby when he pounced on a ball dislodged by Chris Bassett’s pressure on his opposite number over the Uxbridge line.

It was not given by the Hampshire referee, who together with his two neutral touch judges, kept good control of affairs. It was, though, a game played in a very good spirit with both sides keeping their discipline well and trying to play good rugby.

A try then came out of the blue.

The two teams were scrapping and fumbling around on the visitor’s 25m line.

Gravesendians centre Ricky Harding received a snatched pass and a defensive hole appeared in front of him.

Through he went, untouched, and sped under the posts to the delight and relief of all Old Gs players and supporters.

Richard Oxtoby converted to give Old Gs a more defendable cushion at 10-0.

The second half was basically one way traffic.

Old Gs had no ball to play with and were locked in battle in their own half for most of the 40 minutes.

They did not flag in defence and it took a clever ploy from the training field to finally undo them.

A tap down from a lineout found the No 8 coming round to the blind side.

He was over in the corner before Old Gs could react and Uckfield were finally on the score-sheet and growing in confidence by the minute.

At 10-5, Old Gs faced a torrid last 30 minutes.

Despite their dominance in the set pieces and the amount of good possession, Uckfield just ran up blind alleys.

They could not produce more than one good scoring chance in 30 minutes of rugby.

Their eventual chance came from loose ball when Old Gs were stretched wide and the Uckfield winger was put under little pressure as he touched down in the corner.

Unfortunately for him and his celebrating team mates, the last pass was correctly adjudged forward.

Old Gs were careful not to give away silly penalties near their own line.

This discipline worked well in their favour and, combined with good defending, was enough.

There was a late scare when the Uckfield centre, on a strong run, battered his way towards the Old G line.

Although his pack were on his heels, the ball was stripped away by Dave Boyer who ran out of defence and cleared the danger with a cracking touch kick.

There were many injuries needing attention, which upset the flow and probably helped Old Gs as it broke up any momentum Uckfield could build in the second half in what was certainly no classic encounter.