Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks travelled to East Grinstead in the league. Having been relegated five leagues less than two seasons ago the former Professional outfit won promotion to Sussex 1 at a canter last season and look a strong favourite to march back up the leagues.
The All Blacks welcomed back a few members of their squad but are still being hampered by holidays, work and functions at this stage of the season and as such saw 6 changes to the squad from the previous game. The All Blacks came out of the blocks in second gear and for the first 30 minutes it was all East Grinstead. The men from Saint Hill looked fit, well drilled and sharp as they played all the rugby in the All Blacks half.
After knocking at the door for 15 minutes the All Blacks defence finally gave way and EGs scored a converted try in the corner. They followed this score up with a penalty to extend their lead to 10-0 within the first 20. Despite the onslaught the All Blacks defence was resilient with prop Josh Wren, second row Adam Rez and flanker Christian Jones getting through a lot of work. In the backs Mike Jennings was giving a master class in front foot tackling. The All Blacks scored next when at an EGs scrum the pack put the pressure on and drove the men in green back. The EGs scrum half spilled the ball at the back of the scrum and All Blacks scrum half Bone Matemosi jumped on the lose ball racing on 30 metres to score under the posts, fly half Rich Fleming converted 10-7. Moments later the All Blacks won a penalty for not releasing and a Fleming levelled the scores 10-10.
From the kick off a missed tackle in midfield by the All Blacks saw the ball spun wide by EG and with what looked like a forward pass the EG full back squeezed in the corner for the unconverted score 15-10. The All Blacks regrouped at half time and came out in the second half with all guns blazing. The front row of Lee Collingbourne, Andy Mackay and Paul Hasib were getting through a ton of work carrying time and time again. Despite the onslaught EGs defended like lions keeping out the rampaging forward hordes from Burgess Hill. The All Blacks added a penalty during this period to draw the scores closer 15-13. After another five minutes of being camped in the EG 22 the ball was spun wide where an interception in midfield saw EG start a counter attack. The centre passed to his winger on the 10 metre line who knocked the ball on and kicked it away in frustration. Everyone on the field stopped however the referee did not blow his whistle. The winger picked up the ball now on the All Blacks 10 metre line and raced into the corner for the unconverted score 20-13. This score knocked the stuffing out of the men in black.
The game was now getting lose and the All Blacks were enjoying the unstructured nature of the game with centres John Rainima, Luke Rokova and full back George Yeates coming to the for during this period. After 15 phases that saw the All Blacks get into the EGs 22 the ball was spun wide for Rokova to stroll in near the posts. The conversion was pushed wide by Fleming, 20-18. EGs came back and won a penalty on the 22 which they converted to extend their lead 23-18. The All Blacks then grabbed a penalty of their own to close the gap 23-21. The final five minutes were end to end with both teams looking to end the game on a high. The men in black looked deflated at the final whistle with the Saint Hill men ecstatic at the result.
The All Blacks like the week before felt hard done by but accepted that it happens in sport and will live to fight another day. With two opening loses and only two losing bonus points to show for it the All Blacks are looking forward to welcoming Eastbourne this Saturday who are riding high after mauling Ditchling at the weekend – kick off 3pm. The Ridgeview Wine Estate MoM went to Mike Jennings for his complete lack of disregard for his body in defence.