Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks played host to Crawley in the league.
With the All Blacks sitting in 3rd and Crawley in 4th with both teams having the same win/lose record everything was ready for an epic battle.
The game was given a little extra spice by way of an exchange referee from Kent who is daughter of an international referee and expected to go onto great things.
The men in black made 3 personnel and 2 positional changes to the team from the week before.
The all blacks came out of the blocks with all guns blazing. Their pack dominated the contact and scrum areas with the back row of Dave Wattam, Philippian International Ash Heward and Adam Rez eating up the yards with ball in hand.
Sam David at scrum half was given an arm chair ride for the first 20 passing the ball out to the backs where right winger Max Wilson was terrorising the Crawley defence everytime he got the ball.
Despite the one sided onslaught the men in black could not break down the best defensive team they have played this season. Crawley showed Spartan like defence in keeping wave after wave of attack out often driving the All Blacks backwards in the tackle led by their fiery scrum half.
Due to the one sided nature penalties did come including a yellow card to the Crawley flanker. The black pack smelt blood and chose to scrum on 3 occasions instead of kicking for goal. On all 3 occasions the referee awarded a free kick to Crawley for an infringement by Burgess Hill much to the shock of the home side.
At the next penalty the black pack choose to kick at goal which was slotted over by fly half Owain Jenkins 3-0 after 25 mins.
As is all too often in sport the All Blacks then took their foot of the pedal and let Crawley play rugby. Crawley equally had some strong forward runners, an excellent lineout and speedy backs. After one catch and drive at the lineout the ref awarded a penalty after the All Blacks were adjudged to have gone round the side to kill it. Up stepped the Crawley fly half who cooley slotted the penalty from 35 metres. 3-3.
At half time the All Blacks felt buoyed by they were now playing down the slope. At this point they brought on Martyn Woodhead into the back row.
The All Blacks started the half slowly and found it hard going in the boggy conditions. Crawley started to win some of the breakdowns and began to go forward. After 5 minutes of pressure edging their way up the pitch the All Blacks killed the ball at a ruck. The talented Crawley 10 stepped up and kicked once more to take the lead 3-6.
The men in black came straight back at Crawley. Woodhead took the ball on time after time giving the All Blacks go forward ball time and time again. Following a penalty in front of the posts, instead if kicking the points the All Blacks saw space outside and went for the try. The execution was poor however and a knock on ensued.
The next 15 minutes were played out between the 22’s with both teams fighting it out in what was now a bog of a pitch. Crawley missed a penalty during this period.
After a kick down field by the All Blacks good defence resulted in a Crawley knock on 10 metres out. The All Blacks smelt blood and at the scrum drove the Crawley pack back towards their line, 10 metres, 8, 6, 4, 2, a try was certain when the Crawley scrum half ran round and killed the ball and the ref awarded a penalty. In any other game the All Blacks would have chosen the scrum and gone for the 7 points however due to earlier they kicked the points to tie the score 6-6.
With 10 left on the clock All Blacks brought on 18 year old fly half Rhys Clarke. His first contribution was to take a shot at goal from the halfway which due to the mud fell short.
The last 8 minutes were neck and neck with both teams pushing for the win. The final act came following a Crawley trying to run it out of their own half. Their centre ran the ball up and was scythed down by outside centre Ant Baldwin where his centre colleague came in and won the penalty as the Crawley player would not release the ball.
35 metres out on a patch of mud, Clarke signalled to his Captain Ben Dewey that he wanted the shot. Clarke struck it exquisitely straight through the middle with plenty to spare. The referee blew her whistle and the players and crowd went wild.
The All Blacks will be bouyed by the win which sees them sit second at the halfway stage of the season. They will be disappointed however that they could not turn the possession into points.
MoM winning a free session at Sussex Osteopathy went to Clarke for his last second winner.
Next week the Sussex All Blacks entertain Crowborough 2’s. Due to Haywards Heath being relegated 3 leagues earlier in the season Crowborough 1’s do not have a game and as such the men in black expect a very strong Crows team.
With 60 players pulling on a black jersey across 3 senior teams last weekend things have never been brighter at the club. If anyone would like to join Mid Sussex’s fastest growing club please contact Director of Rugby Ross Hallifax on 07941 016836 / firstname.lastname@example.org