Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks travelled to Uckfield in the league.
Despite a morning monsoon the weather was warm and sunny and the pitch was firm.
The All Blacks have lacked a little squad consitency this year and had 6 changes to the squad that beat Horsham thr week before. Uckfield had a much improved squad from last year with a strong pack and some skillful backs.
The All Blacks dominated all aspects of the first half. At the scrum lose head prop Paul Hasib was giving out free dark art lessons with the Uckfield prop popping up for air time and time again. At the lineout Joe Schofield was securing good ball beating his man with pace everytime. In the lose the back row of Adam.Rez, Jordan Sayers and Dave Wattam were carrying time and time again.
For the first 30 mins Uckfield did not get out of their half. Despite the dominace the All Blacks could not break down a ferious Uckfield defence who repelled wave after wave of attack.
During this dominance the All Blacks dropped the ball over the try line twice and hit and shaved the posts with penalty kicks.
Everyone knew a score was inevitable. Completly against the run of play a score did come when following a clearence kick by Uckfield the Uckfield winger charged down a kick and the lose ball was spun wide for the Uckfield 10 to score an unconverted try in the corner. The All Blacks looked shocked they were the ones to conceed.
The All Blacks once more came back at Uckfield who by now were racking up the penalty count. Despite the one way traffic, Uckfield showed tremendous defence repelling lineout drives, rucks and backs moves time and time again.
The All Blacks made one injury change at half time with hooker Joe Schofield coming off with a shoulder injury. Tim Mason came into the FR.
The All Blacks started the second half well and pounced on a kose ball. After a number of phases that saw Sayers go close, prop Paul Hasib picked up and powered over near the posts. Inside centre Rhys Clarke added the extras to take the lead 5-7.
Uckfield came right back at the All Blacks as they began to show their pace and power. The All Blacks lost scrum half Mass Hiller at this point to an akle injury resulting in a reshuffle to the back line. Uckfield pounced on this turbulance in the All Blacks ranks and quick hands led to space out wide for their winger to score a converted try 12-7.
Moments later with their tales up the Uckfield No.8 showed his power and pace and burst through some would be tacklers to score another converted try 19-7.
The All Blacks had to go to uncontested scrums at this point as Tim Mason took a big collission to the knee. 17 year old Charlie Rutter came on for his debut.
The Uckfield 8 loved uncontested scrums and he had a field day running off the back before releasing his back line who were now showing great hands and speed.
3 more unconverted tries went Uckfield’s way as they domibated proceedings. In reply the All Blacks coughed up 2 chances in the last 10 minutes which resulted in a final score of 34-7.
Uckfield were the deserving winners showing tremendous defence in the first half and pace and power in the second. The All Blacks need to learn to convert pressure into points and react quickly to injuries. If they had converted their opportunities in the first half and had gone in 15-20 points up it would have been a different ball game.
The All Blacks Ridgeview Wine Estate Man of the Match was Aussie teenage full back Matt Bird who was excellent under thw high ball and regularly found gaps in attack.
Next week the All Blacks are at home vs Hellingly who moved above them after beating Brighton 2’s at the weekend.
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