New Season, new league structure and new expectation’s from Hellingly RFC.
Following a successful preseason, I was always confident ahead of this week’s fixture. With the dedication of our squad, self-belief and a little fine tuning by our coaching staff, we were ready for battle.
The message was simple. “Don’t play for the name on the back of your shirt, play for the badge on the front and for all those family, friends and team mates that represent that badge”. If we were honest, worked for each other and set a platform, having worked tremendously hard on scrums and lineout this summer, we would end up winning. Indeed, this ended up the story of the day.
The front row of James Maunder (AKA Cornish), Dan Halls and Jon Tutty, given extra leverage from our powerhouses of the second row Matt Blakinston and Lewis Ather, dominated the Burgess Hill pack, whether our ball or not. Add on a back row which consists of the 3-time player of the year Mark Harris and Man of the Match, on debut, Matt Hayllar and a bench of Dale Spiers and James Streeter, who are so versatile, then can play anywhere within the pack, there is no surprise that Burgess Hill struggled to compete with our pack on the day.
At lineout, we won what felt like 100% of our own ball and stole no less than 3 lineouts against the head. It is from the lineout that we could showcase glimpses of what Hellingly’s backline should offer this season. With David Searle, “the general”, linking everything that is good on the day between the backs and the forwards, I am confident that outside him he has the youngest and most exciting backline Hellingly have seen in years. They may not have had the opportunity to evidence this all afternoon, as much as they will continue to do so this season, but when they “clicked” the consequences were that they scored within a maximum of two phases.
From a successful lineout off the top, Matthew Sands threatened the Burgess Hill defence early doors. The next lineout therefore, Burgess hill defenders drifted towards Sands, enabling me to break the gain line and find myself 1 on 1 with the full back. Proving the importance of support play, Vice-Captain and Director of Rugby David Sands, was on hand for the offload, to finish off a wonderful team try.
Our second try came following a miss pass by Thomas stone, to give Sam Cosham a 50% chance of scoring. 50% may not sound like much, but with this man’s power, he somehow majestically beat 3 defenders who pushed him towards the touchline, to score in the corner.
Our final try of the game came from almost every member of backline touching the ball. With the likes of Jack Cowell and Ian Padget keeping defenders honest, as they had all game, by the time Tom Stone received the ball, he had both space and importantly BLISTERING PACE, to step off his left foot and run in from the 10m line untouched.
Now, my report reflects a game of dominance and from my perspective, I felt we were the better side on the day. However, decisions didn’t always go our way and Burgess Hill at times did well to stop us from scoring more points. With a disallowed try (Sorry Lewis) and chances not taken on our part, we found ourselves just a few points ahead against a Burgess Hill side, who were playing down the hill, not giving up and growing in confidence.
Not many teams beat Burgess Hill, so we needed to display excellent discipline and composure under pressure. Fortunately, this was the case and in our ranks, we had a special “gold card” that we could use. Huw Jones, a guy that was purposely called in for his place kicking capabilities, was able to provide us with points when we absolutely needed them. Points that were the difference at the final whistle.
The game finished 15 – 18 and I am proud to have lead out such a spirited side. Thank you to all the players that made themselves available and the passion you showed on the day. Importantly thank you too to our supporters, who were ever present in our time of need. Never underestimate the importance of your support!
Next week we travel away to Barnes Green, a side unknown to the league having been promoted last season. I imagine now we are a team with the target on our back. This is a pressure we will enjoy, looking to make a statement to the league again next week.
1. J. Maunder
2. D. Halls
3. J. Tutty
4. L. Ather
5. M. Blakinston
6. M. Harris
7. M. Hayllar
8. J. Grey ©
9. D. Searle
10. M. Sands
11. S. Cosham
12. D. Sands (vc)
13. I. Padget
14. T. Stone
15. J. Cowell
16. D. Spiers
17. J. Streeter
18. H. Jones
David Sands x 1
Sam Cosham x 1
Tom Stone x 1
Penalties: Huw Jones x 1
Man of the Match: Matt Hayllar
Photo provided by Sian Bulpitt.