There was joy and relief for Burgess Hill on Saturday as they notched their third win in London SE 3 but two divisions above, Haywards Heath’s misery continued unabated.
The Sussex All Blacks ground out a 12-3 home win against fellow strugglers Sheppey, while Heath were crashing to their 10th defeat in 10 London SE 1 League starts this season.
Things did look a lot more promising for Heath in the opening 20 minutes at Wimbledon, where they enjoyed the bulk of the possession.
But they failed to turn that into points, save for an Owain Jenkins penalty just five minutes in. That was despite solid scrummaging, clean and efficient line out ball from Al Harle and Adie Winters, sensible decision-making at half back from Alex Chard and Jenkins, and good running from a back line in which Robbie Fotheringham and Gareth Quay shone.
Yet even with the hosts down to 14 after 10 minutes when centre Neil Brown was sin-binned for a tip tackle, Heath still failed to get another score on the board and inevitably went behind after Brown’s return to the action.
Some injudicious kicking, although not from Jenkins whose defensive line kicking was exemplary, allowed Wimbledon plenty of chances to run the ball and after some great cover tackles, the dam was finally breached on 26 minutes when Neil Hallett converted his own try.
It was 14-3 just 10 minutes later with a try by home prop Pete Wallace and with Harle sitting in the sin binfor 10 minutes either side of half time, Heath fell 17-3 down to a Hallett penalty.
In the second half Heath held out for 15 minutes before full back Tommy Moore cut through a yawning midfield gap and Hallett took his personal tally to 14.
It was another 15 minutes before wing Jonny Rawlinson crashed over in the corner and the 34-3 scoreline was completed with a try by replacement Josh Charles.
This Saturday Heath entertain Havant (2.30pm).
Burgess Hill had a large and vocal support for their crunch home clash with Sheppey, one place below them in the table.
Three players were given their 1st team debuts and Hill started brightly playing up the slope as their pack dominated the scrum.
But Sheppey were excellent at slowing the ball down, which frustrated Hill all afternoon. All the hosts got from this was a string of penalties but centre Will Pearson kicked four of them to complete a 12-3 victory.
His first attempt narrowly missed after 10 minutes but he then slotted over two in quick succession.
It was not until the last 15 minutes of the first half that Hill’s back line started to see some ball and in the end two or three try-scoring opportunities were squandered.
On the stroke of half time, Hill killed a rare Sheppey attack and their fly half stepped up to reduce the deficit to 6-3.
At half time Hill made three changes, with their strong bench of Ash Heward and Dan Harris going into the back row and Meli Rackacki coming onto the wing. Rhys Clarke moved to fly half.
Clarke began to show some of his skills, combining pace and a snappy pass to open up his back line, while Rackacki displayed some of his Fijian 7s skills, dancing around players.
But despite this dominance, Hill were their own worst enemies, knocking on in key positions.
Sheppey’s cynical play meant they spent 20 minutes of the second half with only 14 men and resulted in more penalties, a number of which Hill chose to run when points might have been the better option.
But in the end it was a key win for the Sussex All Blacks, who this Saturday make the long trip to Folkestone.
Last weekend Hill 2nds travelled to Brighton to face their fears having lost for the last two years on the artificial pitch, including their only defeat of last year.
A penalty from the kick off hardly eased visiting nerves as Brighton went 3-0 up and Hill then missed a penalty of their own, hindered by playing into a strong wind.
Another penalty put the hosts 6-0 ahead and frustrated Hill, who knew they had the stronger team.
Another award against them finally energised the visitors and when they stole the ball from a line out, ex-Brighton player Darren Coulton drove up the field to start a move involving fly half Tyrall and centre McComisky before Tyrall finally ran the ball under the posts. Bowles added the extras to put Hill 7-6 up.
Maple, having finished his unfortunate timeout for a yellow card, ended the first half with a kick for touch and after the break Hill made five changes in a bid to stem the flow of penalties.
The restart saw new winger Horhay chase the kick and leap high above everyone else despite being 12 inches shorter than the rest. That started a move from which Jonny Acton’s efforts were rewarded as Bieber wriggled over the line.
The conversion was missed but by now Tyrall was making huge gaps for both himself and the rest of the back line and Hill seemed to make 30 yards every time they ran with the ball.
Finally it was from a break by Twinn that Maple, now playing at fly half, released skipper Butcher from inside centre to crash over. Bowles’ kick bounced off the post to leave it at 17-6.
Hill won only three penalties all game but from one of them Bowles added three more points.
Hill continued to dominate despite having to make a further three changes due to injury and the next try came when a free flowing move ended with Mike Jennings swallow diving in to score under the posts.
Bowles converted but was not allowed to add the extras to the final try as a Brighton player was receiving treatment and the match was brought to an end one minute early.
It was Brett Medlam who danced his way over to make the final score 32-6 and end the recent jinx.