On a bright, dry day at Hempstead Fields, Uckfield Rugby Club were set for its first home London 3 South East League game for over 3 years having gained promotion last term.
While missing a number of regular starters from last season, the additions to the squad over the summer were settling into the team following two pre-season games and the long away trip to Folkestone last week. The excellent new signings to the club include, Fred Dy in the front row, Rhys Pratt as a utility back and Dan Poulton at fly-half / centre. Uckfield also welcomed back Terry Funnell, Greg Chappell and Lee Evans who were missing last week but were without Humphrey, Harper-Dowe, M Evans and C Buckland amongst others.
The game started brightly for Uckfield who controlled the opening exchanges before a Pulborough infringement allowed one of the new summer signings, Poulton, to step up to slot the three points. This was cancelled out however, four minutes later, as the excellent Pulborough Stand-Off converted from distance.
Uckfield however were controlling the game and pushing the opposition back. At the 10 minute mark, the Acorns attacked out wide using the width with the backs putting the ball through the hand to Ian Page-Mitchelle who made an outside break, chipped over and looked certain to score he was stopped however illegally, leaving no option but to award Uckfield a penalty try.
Other than a Pulborough penalty at 20 minutes, the rest of the first half was a good balanced battle between the two sides. Both with scoring opportunities and chances. It was Pulborough however, that ended the half on a high, from a short line out 5 meters out, a well worked catch and drive leading to a score.
Half time – 10 – 11
Pulborough started the half brighter and managed to score out wide within 5 minutes of the break. Uckfield rallied back however, with excellent surging runs from Funnell, Dy, Armstrong and the reinvented number 8, Dom Scott. After a number of phases upfront, excellent back play and quick passes through the back line lead to Zak Mallett scoring an excellent team try. Poulton added the extras.
Penalties kicks were traded by both teams before Uckfield busted through again to score another excellent team try. Powerful forward runs and quick hands led to University bound George Payne scoring to make the score 25-19 at the 70 minute mark.
It was heartbreak for Uckfield as Pulborough hit back with a well worked move at 79 minutes to score under the posts. The conversion was successful to win the game 26 -25 by a point. Uckfield had performed well and feel this was a game that they should have won.
The new combinations, style of play and personalities are settling into the team. Joint Man of the Match performances from Zak Mallett and Terry Funnell.
ALL IMAGES by Ron Hill (HillPhotographic)