UCKFIELD’s 26-game winning streak ended last Saturday, along with their dreams of playing at Twickenham.
HAC (Honourable Artillery Company), like Uckfield, have had a very successful season with their first and second teams getting promoted.
They were big and very well drilled up front, and their fly-half had a very good boot. Uckfield had no answer to their driving maul, from which they scored three tries, eventually winning the game for them.
Uckfield were under pressure from the off, playing up the hill and against the wind. Solid team defence and big tackles from Joel Forward and Mark Caket prevented HAC from penetrating the Acorns line, whom eventually had to make do with two penalties.
Uckfield responded through a Keiron Martin penalty, but then lost No.8 Dan McCabe to the sin bin towards the end of the first half. HAC capitalised on this and scored a try out wide. The half time score read 13-3.
HAC got on the scoreboard first in the second half with a penalty. Uckfield were beginning to find their rhythm, but the problems associated with competing against two six foot five-plus second rows, added to communication errors, were costing them at the lineout.
The turning point of the game came after a quick HAC lineout on halfway. With a team of three officiating, all being connected by microphones, Uckfield were under the impression there were officiating eyes everywhere. Prior to the game both captains were informed that the assistant referee’s word was as good as the referee’s word.
Then, on 50 minutes, the ball was cleared into touch and caught by a spectator. According to IRB rule 19.2 (d): “For a quick throw-in, the player must use the ball that went into touch. A quick throw-in is not permitted if another person has touched the ball apart from the player throwing it in and an opponent who carried it into touch.”
The assistant referee advised the referee that the ball had been not only been touched, but caught by a spectator. Unfortunately, the advice was not taken by the referee and the quick lineout led to a try. This visibly knocked the Acorns’ confidence.
This was not the only questionably incident and when the frustrated travelling support began to ask the assistant referee about the decisions, he said he couldn’t do anything about it.
Still, this cannot be the sole blame for the loss and, looking back on proceedings HAC probably deserved the win. Their very well-drilled pack scored four further tries, and their backs scored one after a missed tackle. The young Acorns were unable to match HAC’s size and physicality, particularly of their blindside flanker and prop.
Uckfield did score three tries of their own. Replacement winger Andrew Elms dived over form short range and Joel Forward scored an interception try from his own half. Try of the game was Stuart Pearham’s crossfield kick from inside his own five-metre line to winger Lee Evans who turned his opposite man inside out before scoring in the corner. Pearham’s touchline, drop kick conversion was very impressive; however it was too little too late.
So many ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes.’ On the other hand, however, this season has been very successful, perhaps the most successful for Uckfield Rugby Club in a long number of years, with all three teams gaining promotion.
Exciting times lay ahead, and with a new coaching team lined up for next year, Uckfield cannot wait to for next season to get under way.
The club offers a massive thank you to each and every travelling Uckfield supporter that came to the game, whether it was by coach, train or car.
UCKFIELD: Martin, Jupp (Elm), Chappell, Forward, Evans L, Pearham, Dononoe; Whitmarsh, Sinclair (Bradley), Parke-Gailey, Funnell (Brand), Austin (Marshall), Caket, Evans M, McCabe.