Sussex Shield Final

Last Saturday Burgess Hill RFC, the Sussex All Blacks travelled to East Grinstead RFC to face Kent 1 champions Hastings and Bexhill RFC in the Sussex Shield final.

Having beaten Sussex 1 champions Crawley at the end of March the build up to the final had been some time coming with 7 weeks without a game.

Having lost to H&B in the national cup regional quarter final earlier in the season the All Blacks came into the game as the underdog.

The All Blacks selected a strong squad of 22 and wore their 7s kit in aid of the hot, dry and sunny conditions.

The All Blacks met at the club for a hearty breakfast where the squad and supporters berated Eyrsey for his new “lid” one of the few schools staff in the world to sport the same haircut as the year 9’s, which was affectionately renamed a “Shild”. Luckily for the obese second row he did not notice as he was facebook live streaming to his “fans”!

Upon arrival at an impressive EG ground and club the squad took in the occassion whilst Eyrsey continued to collect selfies.

The first half was a tense affair with both teams struggling to create anything with both defences putting in crunching tackles.

All Blacks fly half Owain Jenkins (OJ) was giving a master class in territory rugby pinning back the dangerous H&B back 3. In retaliation the H&B back row were racking up metres with ball in hand and were turning over ruck ball.

The first score came following a pre planned backs move involving both All Blacks wingers Dave Daly and John Rainima who beat the first defender before being tackled by 2 players. At the ruck the H&B forwards swarmed in and turned over the ball, the turnover ball was spread wide and with both Hill wingers involved in the previous ruck a slick break by the H&B centre saw their prop score in the corner.

The All Blacks picked themselves up and came back at H&B with winger Dave Daly making a good break up the wing before H&B made another turnover before bundled into touch. After hill were impeded in trying to take a quick lineout an altercation took place and cool, calm and collected OJ was uncharacteristically (cough) given a yellow for retaliation.

Despite being down to 14, the All Blacks clawed their way up field with centre Jordan Sayers carrying time and time again.

At a 5 metre scrum, the black pack put the squeeze on and sucked in the H&B back row. All Blacks No.8 and Captain Dave Wattam picked up and fed scrum half Massimo Hiller who fixed the winger before passing to Rainima who scored in the corner. Centre Rhys Clarke missed the extras to tie the scores to end the half 5-5.

H&B came out in the second half and started to show their exemplary form this season and began to dominate possession and territory. Their set piece also started to gain control tying in All Black defenders. During this first 20 minutes of one way traffic the All Blacks tackled like lions with sub back row James Brown hitting a double figure tackle count.

The wall finally fell after a great piece of interplay by the H&B centres saw their inside centre canter in under the posts for the converted score 5-12.

Once more the men in black came back at H&B and following the ball being killed, Rhys Clarke slotted a penalty to reduce the deficit, 8-12.

H&B immediately responded with a long range penalty to increase their lead 8-15.

H&B’s next score came from a 5 metre scrum that saw their 8 put in their winger 8-20.

As the All Blacks tired from their relentless defending holes started to appear that saw the H&B inside centre canter in for his second try 8-25.

The All Blacks never know when they are beaten and gave everything for the last 5 minutes to get a score with Wattam, Brown and sub winger Lewis O’Shea, including a 50m race to the try line to make a try saving tackle, all putting their bodies on the line. The H&B defence was steeley strong and kept the All Blacks out to take the win.

The game ended with homage to the forthcoming Lions series, when the referee, in trying to diffuse a punch up, unwittingly, in trying to call a Hill player wearing a 99 shirt called 99, 99, 99 which as all rugby players know signals “one in, all in”!

The All Blacks were bitterly disappointed. Maybe it was the long break, maybe it was the occasion however they failed to show the form that saw them only lose once since the end of October. What did please them was the large and vociferous support that came to cheer them on.

There is always next year!

The after party however was a huge Hawaiian themed success with Eyrsey watching his beloved Wasps lose and everyone consoling him..

Check out the photos from Steve Blanthorn here