All Blacks edge past Uckfield as they battle through weather

Uckfield v Burgess Hill. Picture by Ron Hill (HillPhotographic)
Uckfield v Burgess Hill. Picture by Ron Hill (HillPhotographic)

Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks travelled to Uckfield in the league.

Conditions were very very wet with a soggy long grassed pitch and torrential rain throughout.

With 4 changes to the squad from the week before the All Blacks possessed another strong squad and were confident they could take something from the game.

From the kick off the black pack took the game to Uckfield getting over the game line and giving the backs ball.

The conditions were not conducive to mesmeric back play and as such All Blacks fly half Owain Jenkins majestically used his boot throughout to gain territory and force turnovers.

After 5 mins of possession Uckfield gave away a penalty on the 10 metre line. Facing into the wind and on a long grassed pitch OJ kicked for the corner.

At the lineout open side flanker Connor Chatfield rose like a salmon taking the ball at the front of the lineout. The maul ensued that rumbled on and over the try line for the score in he corner. Up popped second row Tim Daniel holding the ball. OJ’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful holding up in the wind.

The next 34 minutes were all Hill as they controlled the game using their pack to claw their way up field and OJ to keep Uckfield pinned back. All credit must go to Uckfield whose defence was immense throughout often turning over ball at crucial times. In the front row a real battle of the dark arts was also taking place with both sides showing their full repertoire.

With 5 minutes of the half left Hill coughed up two good chances. One was at another 5 metre lineout where they attempted an intricate move rather than rumbling over the line again. Another was at a dominant scrum where rather than keeping the ball in it was spun out.

With less than 60 seconds left in the clock Uckfield showed they would not buckle as their backline spun the ball from their own half. Left winger Lee Evans took the ball on his own 10 metre line and took on the All Black winger using good footwork and and fend to beat him. He then noticed the All Blacks full back coming across for the cover tackle. As he approached, Evans kicked the ball over him and then grubbered the ball 20 metres to score. The Uckfield fly half kicked a wonderful conversion to end the half 7-5.

At half time the All Blacks looked shell shocked as they had just dominated a half with Uckfield getting in the Hill 22 on one occasion where they scored.

The All Blacks now had the wind and OJ was using it to full effect with bombs, cross field kicks and banana kicks to touch. Having played most of his youth rugby in West Wales the man from Kidwelly knew what was needed. A kick however is only as good as a chase and in centres Dave Daly and Luke Mortell the All Blacks possessed two rocks who scythed down any counter attack. The back row of Chatfield, Christian Jones and Dave Wattam also showed all their experience hunting down any Uckfield attackers.

2 cross field kicks almost lead to scores as Wattam and colt winger Joe Brown came very close in the last 15 minutes.

It felt as if the score would come as the All Blacks were on the front foot with their set peice starting to gain the upper hand and their backs hunting like a wolf pack when the ball was kicked through.

With 8 minutes left on the clock following a scrum on the half way line, OJ again opted for a cross field kick. The ball went between the Uckfield winger and full back where they had to turn to collect. The full back on retrieving the ball was engulfed by a sea of black and carried over his own line for a 5 metre scrum to the All Blacks. The Hill front row of Jon Phillpot, Ben Dewey and Paul Hasib roared with delight.

At the scrum the All Blacks turned the screw and drove the Uckfield pack over their own line for Wattam to dot down. OJ stepped up and slotted the conversion to lead 7-12.

Uckfield came alive in the last 5 minutes and throw the kitchen sink at the All Blacks however the defence stood firm to secure the much deserved away win.

MoM could have gone to a number of players with the forwards controlling the game, the centres showing rock like defence and Owain Larard cool and collected at full back. In the end though the master class shown at fly half meant OJ took the title.

Next week the All Blacks are at home to Gillingham Anchorians and are looking for their 3rd win on the bounce.

If anyone would like to join the Sussex All Blacks, please contact Director of Rugby Ross Halifax on 07941 016836 /

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