Last Saturday Burgess Hill RFC played host to Crawley RFC in the Quarter Final of the Sussex Shield.
Having played Crawley 3 weeks earlier in the league where the All Blacks narrowly beat them 9-6 the Sussex All Blacks knew this was going to an arm wrestle of a match.
The All Blacks started the game well using their powerful pack to gain in roads into the Crawley half. Prop Paul Hasib, second rows Cris Leahy and Martyn Woodhead and No 8 Dave Wattam led from the front. The backs also showed their endeavour with the back 3 of Owain Jenkins, Max Wilson and Dave Daly regularly snipping down the wings.
In the first 20 it was all Burgess Hill as they pummelled the Crawley defences. Crawley stood firm however and showed tremendous defence keeping wave after wave of attack out.
With 15 minutes to go the men in black had a scrum 15 metres from the line. The scrum was solid and from the base scrum Half Massimo Hiller passed to fly half Rhys Clarke. Clarke dummied inside centre Jordan Sayers who drew 2 defenders before Clarke looped round to score untouched 5 metres to the right of the posts. Clarke slipped taking the conversion and the extras were missed.
As often happens the All Blacks took their foot of the pedal for the next 10 minutes and Crawley came back at them. Following a penalty and some back chat Crawley made it into the Hill 22 for the first time all game. The Crawley fly half and slotted the penalty 5-3. In the closing moments of the half following a slip in midfield Crawley almost scored but for a forward pass.
At half time the Sussex All Blacks regrouped and new in the worsening conditions they needed to look after the ball to close the game out and that is exactly what they did.
As expected Crawley started the second half all guns blazing playing down the slope. The All Blacks defence stayed strong and kept wave after wave of attack out for 10 minutes.
It was at this point that the All Blacks grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and clawed their way back into the Crawley half where they spent the next 30 minutes.
Sam David was now on at scrum half and was orchestrating his pack before releasing the backline. He showed great authority and control demanding a greater work rate from bigger older players. Hasib, Ash Heward, Ben Dewey Leahy and Will Arney obliged eating up the ground which was now becoming a quagmire.
In reply all Crawley could do was defend like lions which they did admorably. The onslaught however resulted in a number of penalties 2 of which were in kicking distance. Clarke slotted both with aplomb on the slurry like surface. 11-3 to the Sussex All Blacks.
In the last 10 minutes, Crawley had to chance their arm and their fly half was spraying the ball around at all costs. The All Blacks centres of Luke Mortell and Ant Baldwin stood firm and knocked back every attacker that came near.
The game ended with the All Blacks in total control where they managed the ball and conditions expertly.
Burgess Hill’s Man of the Match could have been awarded to a number of candidates from Cris Leahy, Sam David or Paul Hasib however the honours and the free session at Sussex Osteopathy went to No.8 Dave Wattam who showed all his experience throughout.
The Sussex All Blacks now march into the semi final at home on the 14th March vs the winners of Hellingly vs Bognor.
Next week Burgess Hill are back in league action away to Worthing Senior 1, KO 2:15pm.
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