Last Saturday Burgess Hill RFC, the Sussex All Blacks travelled to high flying Heathfield and Waldron in the league.
11 of the first team squad were unavailable with a large contingent having a particularly aggressive strain of man flu, the All Blacks called in some of their more “experienced players” as well as giving a debut to Glenn Rankin who has returned to the club some 30+ years since starting out as mini. Heathfield in comparison looked like they had never seen a tape recorder, VHS tape or the Spice Girls and had an average age of 20. The Heathfield pitch was like a putting green and for the first 25 minutes Heathfield demonstrated some of the best rugby the All Blacks have encountered in the last few seasons. Their forwards carried hard and offloaded well and their back line was full of fizz especially on the right wing where their Hartpury College flyer produced a show real for premiership clubs. At the end of the onslaught the All Blacks were left shell shocked and 26 points down.
At this point the All Blacks made some changes bringing on Rankin at No.8 for his debut and Jon Phillpot into the front row for man flu victim Tim Baglole. These changes steadied the All Black ship and they started to control the ball inching their way up the pitch through their forwards and snipping runs by scrum half George Yeates. Heathfield’s only response was to give away penalty after penalty. Following one penalty the All Blacks continued to play the advantage where the ball was spun back to fly half Owain Jenkins who slotted a 30 metre drop goal.
Heathfield responded to the score with 2 further tries to end the half one of which saw their rangey second row run 50 metres to dot down.
The second half started much like the first and the Heathfield pack showed more offloads than Sonny Bill Williams in the recent Rugby World Cup. One of their tries came from a 20 metre flick pass off the floor over 2 defenders for their second row to score in the corner.
Despite the onslaught there was one facet of their game where Heathfield didn’t dominate as they would have liked and this was at the set piece. At the lineout the All Blacks regularly spoiled what is clearly an attacking weapon and at the scrum the front row of Paul Hasib, Jon Phillpot and Toby Garrad were putting the large Heathfield front row under pressure including striking one ball against the head. When in possession the All Blacks were comfortable in using their short game to gain territory using their forward runners and half backs to ask questions around the Heathfield ruck. Winger Lewis O’Shea was also showing his illustrious counterpart that he too had dancing feet often making something out of nothing with numerous defenders in front of him.
Following one attack, OJ grubber kicked the ball through towards the Heathfield line. The Heathfield full back was tackled over the line by 3 All Black defenders for an attacking scrum to the black pack. At the scrum the All Blacks showed what Graeme Rowntree had taught them and drove the Heathfield pack over their own line for No.8 Dave Wattam to score. The Heathfield support were left stunned as they had not seen their pack pushed back all season. Paul Hasib puts his scrummaging strength down to the 12 eggs he eats a day along with 4 burgers, 10 sausages, 1kg of bacon and 6 slices of toast.
The All Blacks were now frustrating Heathfield and the game was getting a little heated in places which resulted in a scrappy last 10 minutes. The final score was 59-8 to Heathfield.
Heathfield were exceptional and if they can retain their team they will climb the leagues in no time. Special mention must go to their hooker, second rows, blind side flanker and wingers who could easily play National level rugby. The All Blacks will learn from this encounter and will be encouraged they made a game of it in places despite missing a number of players. Next week the All Blacks play host to Old Dunstonians a team they had two very close encounters to 2 years ago. With Romanian internationals in their pack scrum time could be a case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
Despite having 20 plus players unavailable the All Blacks still managed to field 3 senior sides last Saturday, the only club in Mid Sussex to do so. If anyone would like to join the Sussex All Blacks please contact Director of Rugby Ross Hallifax on 07941 016836 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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