Sheppey 42 - 10 Burgess Hill
This match had to single handedly, be the most important in Sheppeys excellent season, if not, most players memory.
Emotions were running high before kick-off, but there was an air of confidence in the Sheppey changing room. Some players were particularly suffering from nerves, me included, but some wise words from Andy H helped settled the player – ‘just think lads, they are feeling exactly the same as you……if not worse as they are away from home’.
As 3pm drew close, the intensity in the Sheppey changing room grew, there was a buzz that it would be OUR day.
John Kelly, led his troops out for the ‘day of reckoning’ in front of a 500 strong crowd who had come to cheer on ‘Their Boys’.
JK opting to receive the kick and get some ball in hand straight off.
As the clock struck 3, the referee blew his whistle, and it began…..
Perhaps the nerves were a little too evident - the kick-off wasn’t fielded too well, but Sheppey had managed to get the ball in hand. The first few minutes allowed both team to suss out exactly where to attack and who the key people were. Territory was gained and lost as both teams had short spells with the ball.
Some good phases started to be put together by the forwards with Dave Smith, Steve Croall, Chris Champ and Dave Dewis all carrying well, allowing some room to be exposed out wide. Great hands down the backline allowed a 2-on-1 with Dean Eley and the ever dangerous Chris Bain to go head to head with the winger. A superbly timed pass from Eley allowed Bain to stroll into the corner and for Sheppey to get the ball rolling on what would be a memorable day. Box adding the extras. 7-0
More good pressure a short time after, allowed Sheppey to get a foothold just on the opponents 22 with an attacking scrum. Dylan Davies picked from the base, drew the ‘All Blacks’ back row and off loaded to JK, who in-turn sucked in the winger and gave a pass to Bain. Bains powerful run getting within 10 metres from the line before a good double tackle held him up. Bain managed to free his hands to offload back inside to a flying JK who crashed over carrying another 2 would be tacklers. The confidence was starting to grow… but Box couldn’t add the 2 points.
Score line now looked a little better at 12-0, but the experience of JK knew this wouldn’t be enough to rest on, so just said to the players to keep the pressure on.
The reward of a lot of graft allowed Sheppey to have a shot at goal, this time Box getting the 3 and further stretching the lead. 15-0. Once again, the lads knew this wasn’t enough, and if Burgess Hill came back with 2 quick converted tries, they could very much be back in the game.
Martin Robinson went close but was unlucky to have the ball knocked from his hand as he was crossing the line. A combination between Dave Smith, and Skipper JK, were also a little unlucky not to score in the same corner shortly after.
Burgess Hills heads had started to drop with the pressure, heat and injuries they were starting to suffer on the tough Sheppey soil. There was, however, time before the referee to blow his whistle for the end of the first period, for Dean Eley to finish a well worked move down the left wing. Brad Box converting to bring the half time score to 22-0.
Sheppey were dominating now, and the foot began to lift off the pedal. Coach Olliver decided that early in the 2nd half, some changes would be made and allow the subs to get some match time.
Maybe Sheppey were a little too over confident by this time and allowed Burgess Hill back in with 2 tries, one of which was a well worked lineout with a catch and drive. Sheppey threw bodies in, but were just a little unlucky not to stop the momentum. The Burgess Hill kicker, unsuccessful with the boot.
Sheppey took it up a level and came back hard, once again breaking the line time after time. A deft ‘Sonny Bill Williams’ style offload from Tariu Kautai mid tackle went to Ethan Roach, who with another slight of hand found Dave Smith on the wing allowing him to crash over. Another fine team try as most players had been involved one time or another in the move.
At this point Sheppey knew the game was pretty much over for Burgess Hill, but just kept the ball in hand and the phases going on.
Try of the day had to be the individual effort from Tom Varker. As the play built, JK spotted the defence had re aligned out left and had left the blindside open. He picked up and offloaded to Tariu, who drew the tackler and then hit Varker on the winger. Varkers pace left the defence standing and he sprinted in from 45 metres, including a sidestep reminiscent of Scott Gibbs sidestep in the Wales/England Finale of the 6 Nations a number of years ago. Why he didn’t put the ball down under the posts, I don’t know, but the grin on his face spoke volumes!
Box was having a bit of an off time with the boot, and didn’t add the extra 2.
Unfortunately, there were a few more ‘incidents’ in the game that left a sour taste in the mouth and slightly ruined what would be a fantastic day.
Chris Bain grabbed his second try with more strong running, but unfortunately for him, when he scored, he took offence to the high tackle after he crossed the line. Some profanities were exchanged which resulted in the referee giving Bain a yellow on the restart, so Sheppey went down to 14. A short time after, Robinson was also show a yellow for a number of offenses including a professional foul at the ruck area and not retreating behind the kicker. Sheppey now down to 13, had to hold out those final few minutes.
Box relieved pressure with his boot and suddenly Sheppey were back in control and pounding the opposition line. Replacement Alex Nichols went close with a strong run to the line, only to be shown a straight red card. Maybe frustration, maybe stupidity, nevertheless, stamping on a fallen tackler was never going to end well.
Now down to 12 on the field, it was just a matter of damage limitation, but Sheppey had already done the hard work, and as the final whistle sounded, cheers rose up over Stupplefield as Sheppey were officially in the London leagues… London South East 3 … here we come.
I think I should take this chance to name all the players individually, as everyone contributed to this fantastic win and to make me proud as a captain to have led such a superb group of players.
Dave Dewis : Immense at scrum time, hit rucks like there was no tomorrow, even had some nice little runs in open play… still awaiting his first score… (and no mate, your not retiring when you get it) I