For the last league game of the season, Burgess Hill hosted Uckfield at Poveys Close in what promised to be a tough encounter.
Hill chose to play up the slope in the first half and on a sunny but breezy day kicked off.
The first few minutes were played in the middle of the park with both sides tackling well and keeping the ball for a few phases. The scrums looked even despite the Uckfield pack having a significant weight advantage.
Uckfield broke the deadlock with some good passing pulling Hill one way and then the other direction across the pitch. Hill ran out of defenders and the Uckfield winger flew down the right touch line and touched down under the posts. The conversion was good so it was 0-7 to Uckfield.
However, the All Blacks showed their metal and fought back. Uckfield had a scrum just in their half but the smaller and fitter Hill pack applied the pressure and it was hooker Clegg who won a ball against the head. Scrum half Harrison and fly half Collingbourne knew they needed to move it wide and full back Miller hit the line at pace and smashed into the opposition. Uckfield missed the tackle that fooled everyone and Miller kept running to go over for the try out wide.
Collingbourne made a fantastic attempt at the wide kick but just missed, 5-7 to Uckfield.
Unfortunately for Hill, back row Atwater, who had shown some good tackling and rucking, had to go off with a shoulder injury. With the Development team not having any subs, Hill had to drop to 14 and Uckfield (As is their right under the regs) chose to keep on a full side.
The match started to get a bit scrappy and as the larger Uckfield pack got tired there were a few gaps but they were plugged with a few illegal high tackles. The referee eventually had enough and yellow carded an Uckfield player. This evened the numbers for 6 minutes and Hill continued to pile on the pressure.
Hill fly half Collingbourne made the call for a kick ahead and urged his winger and center to chase. The bouncing ball fooled the defence and determined chasing by winger Simonet gained just reward as the ball just bounced away from defenders and a dive by Simonet produced the score.
Unfortunately, the conversion missed but it was 10-7 to Hill.
Even with 15 Vs 14, the match remained even. However, the last action of the half was Uckfield bursting through to score under the posts. The conversion successfully made the score was 10-14 to Uckfield.
Another blow to the Hill squad at half time saw winger Simonet come off to an injury so Hill went down to 13. Uckfield dropped a player so the second half was played 14 Vs 13.
The first section of the half was dominated by Hill putting pressure on the Uckfield backs. This meant they looked to a territorial game and kicked from hand.
It was from one of these kicks that the Hill defense was struggling but loose head prop Cowle was the only chaser. Looking like he was going to lose the foot race, he reached out and grabbed the opposition winger’s sleeve. Not one to miss anything, the referee rightly yellow carded Cowle and it was 12 vs 14 for 6 mins.
Hill never let their heads drop and despite there being 2 players difference, did not let Uckfield settle. It was from a Hill scrum that the ball was spun wide and Miller, now moved to centre, took a great ball from Collingbourne and cut back inside to score next to the posts. Collingbourne made the conversion to bring the scores to 17-14 to Hill.
Hill still had an extra man off the pitch and gave away a few penalties to give Uckfield some good territory. From a lineout Uckfield crashed through the centre and scored under the posts. Conversion was good and the match moved to 17-21.
Prop Cowle came back on with 10 mins to go and Hill looked to turn the match around.
The Hill fowards were showing their fitness and putting pressure on the heavier opposition. Back row of Hovel and Kyalo showing some great support lines and powerful tackling.
More pressure from Hill and a cheeky little kick from Collingbourne meant that the Uckfield player took the ball under pressure. Hill forwards surged into the ruck forcing the Uckfield player to touch down over his own line and force a scrum to Hill 5m out.
Hill now set the solid scrum and no. 8 and Forward of the Match Hovel picked up from the base of the scrum and drove toward the line. A great step and bust of power and he smashed over for the score. 22-21 to Hill.
Collingbourne stepped up to take the conversion but on the first unsuccessful attempt Uckfield were never behind the try line and were leaning against the posts. Collingbourne smartly asked for a second attempt and proving himself worthy winner of Back of the Match, slotted over the second attempt to make it 24-21.
Uckfield realised that they had to score the try to win now kept hold of the ball. As the match drew to a close, the Uckfield backs passed the ball from one side to the other and again the superior numbers told and the try was scored. The conversion missed but the score on the final whistle was 24-26 to Uckfield.
Hill Development team should be massively proud of their performance and playing with 1 or 2 men down for the majority of the game but keeping their heads up proved how far they have come.
Next week we have training at home and then the awards afterwards.
Following that there is a Charity match being held at the Club and all are welcome.
Squad: Cowle, Clegg, MacAlister, Watts, Nelson, Atwater, Kyalo, Hovel, Harrison, Collingbourne, Lessacher, Edlin, Dale, Simonet, Miller.