Last Saturday Burgess Hill RFC, the Sussex All Blacks travelled to Rye RFC in the league.
Having beaten Rye 80-0 at home earlier in the season at home the All Blacks decided to teat out the strength of their squad and brought a number of regular second team players in the squad.
The All Blacks started very sluggish and gave away 2 penalties in the first minute. The Rye fly half narrowly missed a penalty kick at the posts. This was the only time Rye entered the All Blacks 22 for the next 40 minutes.
The men in black then woke up and took the game to Rye with the forwards making inroads on the wet and boggy pitch. Second row Cris Leahy and no.8 Dave Wattam were swatting away tacklers as they set up rucks. At the ruck scrum half Massimo Hiller was releasing the backs where fly half Clarke and outside centre Liam Hopwood were showing their pace beating would be Rye tacklers time and time again.
The first try came after 10 minutes when following another powerful break by the forwards, Hiller passed to Clarke who dummied and jinked his was through the Rye defence before running on 25 metres to score under the posts. Clarke added the extras.
Minutes later following a blind side break by winger Owain Larrard at the ruck Wattam picked up and pop passed to Hiller who in turn popped to his captain and hooker Ben Dewey who ran in untouched to score in the corner. Clarke once again added the extras 0-14.
It was now one way traffic for the All Blacks. They should have scored on 3 more occasions where the ball was spilt in the process of scoring. The final score of the half came following Leahy going on a run before setting up a ruck near the touchline. At the ruck Hiller passed to Clarke who took the ball to the game line before passing back to a looping Hiller who passed to Hopwood at full tilt.
Hopwood sprinted round the outside cover before passing to left winger Mike Jennings as the full back came in where Jennings sprinted in from 40 metres to score under the posts. Clarke added the extras for a half time score of 0-21. Rye looked at all at sea and the All Blacks were looking unstoppable.
The men in black used their bench at half time including bringing on Big Ben Horton into the second row for his 1st team debut.
Rye started the second half like a different team and after pounding the Hill defence for 5 minutes their useful inside centre crashed over near the posts for the converted score 7-21.
The men in black came straight back at Rye and full back Dave Daly now playing at 10 dummied and sprinted 40 metres to score to the left of the posts. Daly added the extras 7-28.
It was Rye’s turn again as once again they pounded the Hill line before once again the inside centre crashed under the posts into a large puddle. The extras were added 14-28.
The men in black once again came straight back at Rye. Following another break by the backs, the forwards took the ball on. At the ruck Rye killed the ball and Clarke now back on slotted a penalty 14-31.
Moments later in the last 5 minutes after some forward drives, Wattam picked up at the ruck and popped to Dewey who ran in to score in the corner. Clarke missed the extras in the now slurry like conditions to end the game 14-36.
It was not the emphatic win that everyone expected however the Sussex All Blacks were happy to take a bonus point win on the road on a very wet and boggy pitch.
The endeavour shown by the backs in the first half was sublime and is testament to the work being put in at training.
The Sussex All Black man of the match winning a free session at Sussex Osteopathy went to open side flanker Connor Chatfield who covered every inch of grass and was his destructive best in defence.
This Saturday the Sussex All Blacks are at home in a top of the table clash vs Eastbourne KO 2pm.