Last Saturday Burgess Hill RFC, the Sussex All Blacks travelled to Brighton to play their second team in the league.
Unbeaten since the All Blacks beat them at home last November 17-8 everyone knew this was going to be an epic encounter.
The All Blacks started well and had the lions share of possession and territory the first first 20 minutes. Brighton however were well organised and ferocious on the game line and the men in black struggled to break them down.
Following a penalty for coming in at the side of a ruck the ball was kicked for the corner. At the lineout the ball was caught at 2 and passed back to hooker and captain Ben Dewey who drove for the line but was held out.
The All Blacks were starting to assert pressure at scrum time and Brighton gave away a series of penalties which included a yellow card. At the next 5 metre scrum the black pack once more marched their opposition backwards with Brighton once more killing the ball. The referee was left with little choice than to award the penalty try which fly half Rhys Clarke converted 0-7.
The All Black backs were also getting opportunities however a couple of knock on’s out wide meant no one got to see the foot race on the wide Brighton pitch.
With 10 minutes to go it was all Burgess Hill however Brighton never looked like buckling. At a Brighton scrum the black pack pushed the Brighton pack backwards and the ball was hurriedly cleared. Hill Full Back Dave Daly sprinted onto the wayward kick but knocked it on straight into the arms of the Brighton 10. The 10 sprinted down the wing before kicking the ball on. All Black winger Max Wilson collected the ball and was deemed to have killed the ball on the ground as the Brighton hordes tackled him.
At the penalty Brighton kicked for the corner. Showing total control at the lineout the Brighton pack set up a rolling maul and drove over for the unconverted score 5-7.
With 1 minute left of the half Brighton gave away a penalty 40 metres out. Clarke stepped up and dissected the uprights for a half time score 5-10.
At half time you could see the disappointment on the All Blacks faces that they were not further ahead having won the possession, territory and penalty count.
The next 20 minutes was all Brighton as their forward runners and slick backs began to turn the screw.
After 10 minutes their scrum half picked up at a 5 metre scrum and juggled the ball whilst breaking tackles to go over for the converted score 12-10. At this point Clarke left the field with a hand injury and Owain Jenkins came on at fly half.
After further sustained pressure Brighton’s next score came following a simple backs move that saw their full back jog in untouched for the converted score 19-10.
The men in black regrouped at this point with 15 minutes left on the clock and started to claw their way up the pitch. Unfortunately for the Sussex All Blacks everytime they did make yards a knock on or turnover meant Brighton kicked long. After clawing their way back into the Brighton half again with 5 minutes to go Brighton killed the ball at the breakdown. Jenkins pointed at the sticks. At the penalty Jenkins kicked the ball high and to the right waiting for the strong wind to push it in but it did not.
The men in black continued to press and at a penalty 20 metres out theytapped and went passing down the backline where winger Liam Hopwood dived over in the corner for the losing bonus point score. The conversion was missed to end the game 19-15.
The men in black were disappointed not to have come away with more after all their dominance in the first half. Credit must go to Brighton who were the best team the All Blacks have played in the league this season. Well organised, slick hands and strong in defence.
Man of the match winning a free session at Sussex Osteopathy went to open side flanker Connor Chatfield who was everywhere in defence when Brighton turned it on in the second half.
Next week the Sussex All Blacks are at home in the Semi Final of the Sussex Shield vs Bognor KO 2:30pm.