Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks hosted Uckfield in a league and quarter final cup double header due to a fixture backlog.
The game was switched to Oakmeeds Community College as the All Blacks pitch had not dried out from the mid week deluge.
With 6 changes to the team who played away at Gillingham the week before the All Blacks side once again had an experimental feel to it.
The All Blacks started well with their forwards carrying the ball well over the gain line before the backs got the ball.
The ever present back row of Adam Rez and Dave Wattam were joined by Mac Kabunicaucau who proved a handful all afternoon with ball in hand and in defence. In the backs, fly half Rhys Clarke was back at 10 and marshalled his line well supported by the centre pairing of Iowane Tikomaidelana and Dave Daly.
Playing up the slope the All Blacks dominated the early exchanges and all Uckfield could do was give away penalties to stop the onslaught. Clarke slotted 2 long range penalties within the first 15 minutes to take a 6-0 lead.
The Uckfield fly half who had a fantastic boot on him responded with 2 long range shots of his own to level the score at the 30 minute mark 6-6.
The All Black continued to gain good yards with ball in hand with props Jon Phillpot and Paul Hasib carrying well. Once again Uckfield killed the ball and once again the Clarke stepped up to slot another penalty to lead 9-6. With second left on the clock following a backs move where when the ball was killed at the ruck Clarke stepped up to take a penalty from 1 metre into the Uckfield half. He struck the ball majestically and it soared upwards towards the posts before dropping just under the cross bar to end the half.
Having dominated the majority of possession and territory the All Blacks new they needed to up the tempo in the second half and this is just what they did.
From the kick off, Mac caught the ball at full tilt knocking over 3 players on a 15 metre direct run into the Uckfield half.
The ball was then spun wide where winger Liam Hopwood went on a run before kicking over the top of the full back. As he gathered the ball was held up and the All Blacks won the scrum.
At the scrum the Black pack turned on the pressure and won a penalty.
The ball was kicked to touch where Second row Tim Daniel rose up to pluck the ball. At the maul the All Blacks went on a rumble which was killed by an offside Uckfield player. The All Blacks once more kicked for touch and once more mauled the ball. Again another Uckfield player killed the ball. This time the referee was left with no choice and yellow carded the player. At the next lineout Rez leaped up to secure the ball where once again the Black pack mauled the ball on to score. Up popped Paul Hasib clutching the ball like like prized toy. Clarke skimmed the post with his conversion attempt 14-6.
For the next 15 minutes the All Blacks were in complete control and Uckfield were very lucky not to lose more men to the bin as their only response was to kill the ball at every opportunity. All Hill had to show for this total dominance was another Clarke penalty to extend their lead to 17-6.
The All Blacks then took their foot of the pedal momentarily letting Uckfield back into their half where the All Blacks did not release in the tackle. The Uckfield kicker stepped up and added another 3 taking the score to 17-9.
The All Blacks once more came back at Uckfield and following breaking midfield Wattam picked up from the base of the ruck and drew two defenders before passing to scrum half George Yeates who scored in the corner. Clarke hit the post with the conversion attempt 22-9.
With 10 minutes left on the clock rather than kicking on and securing a larger scoreline the All Blacks like England vs Wales, sat back and let Uckfield come back at them. Poor discipline and missed tackles resulted in Uckfield scoring a penalty and an opportunists try by their Flanker who ran 80 metres beating a player before chipping the full back where he dotted down for a final score of 22-17.
In the end the All Blacks were happy to hear the final whistle as Uckfield had their tails up.
The win means the All Blacks host Horsham in the Semi Final of the Bob Rogers Cup on Saturday 30th April.
Man of the match went to Rhys Clarke whose all round play was excellent.
Next week the All Blacks host league leaders and National Cup regional finaists Heathfield and Waldron in the league KO 3pm.
If anyone would like to join the Sussex All Blacks then please contact Director of Rugby Ross Hallifax on 07941 016836 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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