Last Saturday the Sussex All Blacks travelled to Horsham to play their second XV in the semi final of the Sussex Shield. In the quarter finals the All Blacks had narrowly beaten Eastbourne 9-3 away and Horsham had put Crawley to the sword winning 46-19. The men in black welcomed back some injured and absent warriors for the occasion and due to the nature of the cup took a full squad of 22 for the occasion.
Horsham have a brand new RFU owned 4G artificial grass pitch which is the best surface the All Blacks have ever played on.
Horsham started the game at a frantic pace and used their large and powerful pack to carry well before releasing their backs. Lining up at 12 for them was Sam Hampson formerly of Worthing in National 2 and a regular on the national 7s circuit. In his first 3 runs Hampson knocked down All Black players like skittles before eventually being hauled down.
After 10 minutes of dominance the Horsham forwards went over for the unconverted score in the far right corner after a series of drives.
Horsham continued to dominate until around the mid point of the first half when the All Blacks began to get used to the size and speed of the pitch and Horsham’s style of play.
The front five of Lee Collingbourne, Andy Mackay, Paul Hasib, Adam Rez and Tim Daniel began to pick and go and off load to punch holes in their Horsham defence. Returning after 18 months out with an injury scrum half Massimo Hiller was releasing his back line well.
The All Blacks first try came following a burst in midfield by centre Bone Matemosi where the ball was taken on at the ruck by the forwards.
The ball was spun blind where fly half Oli Lewis dummied before taking a gap a releasing Tomer Teichman who scored in the corner. Lewis narrowly missed the conversion 5-5.
The All Blacks came straight back at Horsham from the kick off as no.8 Dan Vugona carried the ball on. At the ruck Hiller popped to flankers Ben Dewey and Jamie Dimelow who made ground with ball in hand.
Quick ball saw Hiller pass to full back OJ who passed to Lewis who found hooker Mackay rampaging on the wing who made the line. Lewis drop kicked the conversion from wide out, 5-12.
The All Blacks smelt blood and continued to make holes in the Horsham defence with Vugona, Rez and Mackay getting through a tone of work.
Another blindside break with a minute of the half left saw Lewis pop inside to winger Mathues Gava who side stepped 2 before crashing over the line. Lewis added the extras from the tee this time, 5-19.
At half time the All Blacks rolled the bench with a complete front row change where Mackay moved to prop and Lewis Strong and Darren Coulton came on at hooker and prop respectively. Cama Salacieli came on for Dewey in the back row and Loz Daraio came on for OJ in the backs.
The opening exchanges of the second half belonged to Horsham once again as the All Blacks got to grips with the changes.
Hampson was once more going on some barnstorm runs but was now being double teamed by the men in black.
Horsham were now throwing the ball around from everywhere on the park looking to get back into the game. One such tirade lead to the All Blacks next try as Vugona pressed up hard to intercept the Horsham fly halfs pass out where he juggled the ball and then dotted down under the sticks. Lewis added the extras 5-26.
Horsham came out of the blocks well at the restart and their powerful no 8 made good ground. A series of penalties by the All Blacks saw Cama receive a yellow card. Horsham took advantage of the extra man and after a series of plays and rucks their winger scored an unconverted score in the corner, 10-26.
The All Backs came straight back and won a penalty 30 metres out that Lewis slotted to extend their lead 10-29.
The All Blacks were now running the show as their forwards and backs combined well. The full bench was now in with Joe Priddle on the wing for Teichman, Kyle Tucker on for Tim Daniel and Mike Woodrow on at second row for Vugona.
A great break by the back row saw Dimelow spill the ball with the try line begging. Another rampaging break by Collingbourne back on the field saw an off load to Tucker who in turn passed speculatively to Dimelow who fumbled over the line again.
Dewey also now back on scored the All Black final try after Priddle went close on the wing the ball was passed out and tipped on where Dewey crashed over the line. Lewis added the extras 10-36.
Horsham scored a late consolation try to end the game 15-36.
The All Blacks were ecstatic with their win against a very good Horsham 2s side on an incredible pitch. They now go into the final on April 13th at Uckfield. Their opponents are yet to be finalised.
The Ridgeview Wine Estate man of the match winning a bottle of their award winning fizz went to Mathues Gava who rode Sam Hampson like a rodeo bull in the second half keeping him quiet.