The Acorns welcomed bottom of the League, Ditchling to Hempstead Field on a exceptionally wet and blustery December afternoon for the last home fixture of 2018, writes Gordon Buckland.
While the game was officially conceded by Ditchling due to a lack of player availability both sides were determined to play the game for personal pride and ensure that the Supporters Christmas Luncheon had the required post Turkey and Harvey’s entertainment as advertised.
Uckfield were forced to make a couple of last-minute changes with Tom Wilding moving into the second row and George Payne transferring to Outside Centre.
Uckfield started the game playing with the wind to their backs looking to ensure they continued to play in the same consistent matter which had led to their recent run of results. After the initial back and forth, Uckfield found themselves within 10 meters of the Ditchling line, good forward play resulted in Matthew Evans eventually being the forward to flop over the line from short rage. The extras added by Buckland. A short time later, Uckfield were pressing again with well controlled ruck ball in the Ditchling 22. Eventually the pressure lead to large holes in the Ditchling defensive, allowing M Evans the opportunity to connect with a well-timed Jack Newcome pass to dive in after 12 mins. The extras being added again by Buckland.
Uckfield continue to run very controlled passages of play and defend any Ditchling attack well. On the 18-minute mark, after a number of rucks, Captain Steve Hartfield, took a fantastic running line to break two tackles and slide in for The Acorns third score.
While Hartfield’s score was a well worked effort from the whole 15, Uckfield’s forth was slightly less organised. After some rather dubious kicking skills by M Evans, including a cross field grumbler kick, Zak Mallet won a 40-metre foot race to score. Again, converted by Buckland. While the Acorns were 28-0 up at half-time, the feeling in the Dressing Room during the break was one of frustration of missed opportunities and at times poor discipline.
Uckfield came back after the break full of ambition to start playing more rugby, and within 2 minutes 1st team stalwart Newcombe crossed the whitewash after some good interplay between forwards and backs. Ditchling were beginning to show more in attack in the second half and did put some pressure on Uckfield. It was winger Ian Page-Mitchell who scored Uckfield sixth and centre George Payne adding the seventh on the 60th minute mark. Given the now exceptionally poor weather conditions it was hugely positive to see Uckfield playing more expansive rugby and scoring tries through the back line.
As the conditions worsened, Uckfield decided to tie the game again, and score there eighth try from the line out catch and drive, M Evans adding to his tally. 2 minutes later, the older, heavier Evans, Lee, finally played himself into a try scoring position and danced past the now very tired Ditchling defence.
In the closing minutes, Ditchling were able to steal a try following calamity between M Evans and Charlie Buckland.
While the final score was 57-5, huge credit and thanks must go to all the Ditchling players.