Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks hosted Pulborough in the league. Having narrowly lost to Pulborough 17-14 away back in October the men in black were confident they could get the result this time at home.
The game was switched to Oakmeeds Community College the morning of the game after the All Blacks 1st team pitch was deemed dangerous in places.
The All Blacks welcomed back a few players as their injury list went from 18 down to 12!
Pulborough kicked off and All Blacks openside flanker Connor Chatfield caught the ball with one foot in touch meaning the ball had gone dead and as such the All Blacks won a scrum at the halfway line. At the scrum the All Blacks showed their power pushing the Pulborough pack backwards before scrum half Sam David fed his backline however a lose pass saw the Pulborough winger collect the ball where he ran down the wing before getting tackled. The ball was then spun down the Pulborough line as they crept their way towards the All Blacks line. After a number of phases by the Pulborough forwards the robust Pulborough winger was passed the ball and he went on a masey run before crashing over the line near the posts. The Pulborough 10 stepped up and slotted the conversion to take a 0-7 lead.
The All Blacks came back at Pulborough and started to use their forward runners with the back row of Adam Rez, Connor Chatfield and Dave Wattam crossing the gain line time and time again. Pulborough could do little to stop the onslaught and gave away 2 penalties both of which outside centre Rhys Clarke converted to take the score back to 7-6.
Pulborough came straight back out of the blocks and following some drives up field by their powerful second row, prop and flanker the ball was spun wide where their winger kicked through before collecting and diving over for the unconverted score 6–12.
The All Blacks once again came back at Pulborough and following a backs move upfield the ball was killed. Clarke stepped up and narrowly missed the penalty kick. The next score came following a rather ambitious 60 metre drop goal attempt by All Blacks full back Owain Jenkins that was charged down by the Pulborough back row where they collected the ball and ran deep into the All Blacks half. At the ruck the ball was spun wide where the Pulborough winger squeezed in the corner for the unconverted score to take a 6-17 lead.
With 15 left on the clock the All Blacks regrouped. Fly half Richard Fleming back after 2 seasons out began to pull the strings proving Andy Goode is not the only fly half giving out master classes in England at the moment. Following a scrum just inside the All Blacks half Wattam picked up at the base of the scrum and took the ball on. At the ruck scrum half David passed to Fleming who dummied and took a gap before passing to Jenkins flying up the wing where he attempted to run over the top of the Pulborough winger but he was hit hard where he sustained a nasty facial injury. At the ruck second row Tim Daniel picked up and dived over in the corner for the try. Clarke stepped up and slotted the touchline conversion to take the score back to 13-17.
The All Blacks now had their tail up and the forwards were starting to dominate their opposition making ground every time they had the ball. At one such ruck prop Jon Phillpot picked up and carried 10 metres drawing 3 defenders before passing to inside centre Dave Daly who ran on 30 metres where he throw a 30 metre pass to replacement back Joe Brown who was on for Jenkins. Brown at only 17 years old showed great power and pace to fend off his opposite winger to score in the corner. Clarke narrowly missed the touchline conversion for a half time score of 18-17.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was all Hill as they began to dominate all facets of play. Playing down the slope meant the pack was now on the front foot and they were making great ground by latching on especially prop Paul Hasib who was smashing through players like a well fed mole coming to the surface for air. David and Fleming were forming a great partnership taking the ball on before releasing the backline.
The next score was inevitable. After 5 penalties at the scrum Pulborough were getting very close to losing a player to the sin bin along with giving away a penalty try. At the next scrum once again the black pack put the squeeze on and drove the Pulborough pack backwards, Wattam picked up, fended off the Pulborough flanker and dived over the line for the converted score to extend their lead to 25-17.
The All Blacks once again took their foot of the pedal and Pulborough attacked solidly for the next 15 minutes. Despite the onslaught they never looked like breaking down the All Blacks defence that stood firm orchestrated by Fleming like a master conductor. During this period replacement back row Andy Mackay racked up a tackle count that any international would be proud of as he hit anything in a black and white shirt. The only thing Pulborough had to show for this period was a penalty shot at goal that they missed.
The final 5 minutes the All Blacks switched on their attack again with Rhys Clarke making a break in midfield where at the ruck the forwards took the ball on with replacement back row Joe Turner going close before placing the ball back. At the ruck a maul was set up where the ball was driven over and Mackay crashed over for the score. Clarke hit the post with the conversion attempt to end the game with a 4 try bonus point victory 30-17.
MoM went to prop Paul Hasib who scrummaged like a man possessed as well as carrying and tackling all afternoon.
This win was a massive morale boost for the All Blacks in their relegation battle and sets them up ahead of their next 6 league games 4 of which are at home. This week the All Blacks are away to Gillingham Anchorians a team they beat at home earlier in the season. If anyone would like to join Mid Sussex’s largest senior club please contact Director of Rugby Ross Hallifax on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07941 016836.
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