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Latest 1st XV match report

Allen makes a monkey out of Sutton
Hertford 41-22 Sutton & Epsom
Sutton travelled to Highfields on Saturday to resume their league campaign after last weekend’s respite. This challenge should not be undersestimated as Sutton since 12th April 2003 have lost 5 of 6 games at this venue. That record was not improved upon as Hertford triumphed by 41-22 in a pulsating game of eleven tries.

With the national press packed with alarmist weather warnings it was entirely predictable that the elements should play a significant part. Remarkably both sides lost the half they played with the strong wind at their backs. The Black & Whites started with everything in their favour not only the wind but also the slope. Despite this the hosts monopolised the early exchanges. However, the visitors would be disappointed with the opening score as it followed their first spell of possession. A speculative kick found space and the subsequent fly hack left S&E critically exposed. Sam Hurley seemed to be the saviour as his covering run secured the ball but his clearance was charged down. Aaron Lowe touched down and Sean Taylor added the extras for a 7-0 lead. Within a couple of minutes the score was doubled as a clearance kick to halfway provided an opening. Naive defence by the touchline allowed Michael Allen to have a clear field to exploit and a wing of his undoubted quality was never going to overlook such a gift. Sean Taylor impressively converted from the flank. The Ware side continued to dominate and a powerful palm off broke the Sutton line to provide Michael Allen for his second score.

Sutton & Epsom needed to respond otherwise a drubbing was on the cards. With Captain Caddy to the fore and the trio of props, Messrs Mount, Banks and Bruce, Sutton finally came to life carrying the ball with power and passion. Alex Banks was inches short but the pack were not to be denied as Alex Mount muscled over to score. As the half entered its last knockings the Rugby Lane men pressed hard to reduce the deficit. Their efforts were undone when a clearance kick cruelly bounced into Hertfordshire hands and a deft offload enabled Ben Creasey to stride home from forty yards. The bounce was fortuitous but the cover was thoroughly inadequate. Sean Taylor added the elementary conversion as the teams turned around with the hosts 26-5 to the good.

With conditions deteriorating the loyal travelling supporters feared for their team who had failed miserably to exploit the situation. Ryan Keates and Nick Headley were introduced. The former immediately got involved in a scuffle on the turf which saw the two combatants removed for ten minutes. From ensuing penalties Hertford were so confident they declined the kick in front of the posts and opted for the scrum. With clinical efficiency the ball found Michael Allen to score. The Hoe Lane favourite ‘Monkey’ Allen had his hat trick. Trailing 31-5 against the weather and playing poorly no-one could have predicted the second half turn around. Fine combination play saw the Surrey men gain an attacking platform deep in the Hertford 22. A catch and drive was thwarted but the ball was eventually spun wide. Jordan Turton, using Nick Headley as a decoy, ghosted through the defence to score. Jacob Knight added the conversion. When restored to 15 the Black & Whites took the game to the Highfields team with renewed vigour. Ryan Keates made up for his earlier indiscretion with a thunderous display of power and pace carrying with great effect. The Black & Whites were now unrecognisable from the outfit that had underwhelmed in the first period as they dominated territory and possession. The strength of the wind was illustrated when a clearance kick from within the Hertford 22 rolled over the dead ball line. Sutton gratefully accepted this bonus and a flurry of penalties were conceded by the hosts. Inevitably a yellow card ensued and the visitors took advantage of the numerical superiority. Jordan Turton was collared in the corner but the supporting players drove him infield and over the line for his second try. From the restart S&E were soon on the front foot kicking a penalty into the corner for an attacking line out. On this occasion the catch and drive ushered Raynn Bruce over the line for the bonus point try. The scoreboard indicated Hertford 31 Sutton & Epsom 22, as 17 unanswered points from the Black & Whites had turned the game on its head.

No sooner had the Rugby Lane spectators started to dream of further glory than their hopes were dashed. Looking to break from within their own half Sutton were intercepted by an alert Hertford winger who raced home from 30 metres. The conversion struck the upright but Hertford now had the comfort of a two goal lead. To their credit Sutton were unbowed and continued to attack with the pack carrying the ball aggressively to great effect. The final score, however, went to the Highfields men. A miscommunication from a line out saw the ball land obligingly to a Hertfordshire forward who rumbled clear. The ball was spun wide, a jolting palm off broke the defensive line and Ben Creasey took a wonderful line to sprint home for the try. The final score was 41-22 as both sides harvested a bonus point for their try-scoring panache but the major points went deservedly to the more clinical Hertford team.

It is hard to assess the Sutton Team after such a Jekyll and Hyde performance. Storming the citadel that is Highfields is a stern test for any side in this league. In their second period pomp the visitors found the formula for success. But they were ultimately undone by an horrendous start and too many errors against an opposition that relentlessly punish mistakes with Michael Allen the executioner in chief.

The campaign continues next Saturday 28th October with the mouthwatering prospect of Dorking’s visit to Rugby Lane. Last season saw honours even in a brace of nail-biting encounters enjoyed by sizeable crowds. Once more we hope for a host of spectators to flock to the ground for the 3pm kick off to witness the next chapter in this story.

Sutton & Epsom: Stefan Cooksammy, Sam Hurley, Andy Matthews, Jacob Knight, Jordan Turton, Jamie See, Dave Watts, Alex Mount, Mickey Pointing, Alex Banks, John Taylor, Matt Harwood, George London, James Caddy, Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used) : Raynn Bruce, Ryan Keates & Nick Headley.

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