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Latest 1st XV match report

Sutton Survive!
Sutton & Epsom 45-24 Amersham & Chiltern
For the impartial observer no doubt it is preferable for the last game of the season to have significance rather than a meaningless encounter between mid-table teams. For the sizeable crowd at Rugby Lane it was a nervous afternoon with the Black & Whites requiring a victory to guarantee their National 3 status. A home game against the bottom team who had only garnered a solitary win this campaign implied a foregone conclusion but that was certainly not the case. By the final whistle it was a relieved Sutton who ran out 45-24 victors that made Chichester’s win over Westcombe Park academic and condemned the Sussex club to the last relegation place.

The game kicked off in perfect conditions for running rugby. The visitors seized the initiative and within five minutes should have opened the scoring but missed a most kickable penalty. This was merely a temporary stay of execution as the Buckinghamshire side monopolised possession and pegged S&E into their 22 with astute kicking. Following a couple of penalties A&C opened the scoring with a quick tap penalty from 5 metres. The conversion was added for a 7-0 lead. A couple of minutes later Amersham regathered a Sutton Gary Owen that the hosts centres were competing for and took advantage of the gaping hole in the midfield.  Running the ball back from just inside their on half they doubled their lead. Ten minutes gone, 14-0 down, Sutton & Epsom with barely a touch and conceding penalties with a frequency of a high street charity worker asking for donations, it was painful viewing for the Rugby Lane faithful.

The Ash Grove side continued to dominate the first quarter as the Black & Whites desperately attempted to gain a foothold. It took a quick tap penalty from Steve Munford to galvanise the hosts effort. Sweeping down the pitch with their first phases of attacking play Dave Dyer made the significant break to gift Mike Blakeburn a try. Steve Munford added the extras to cut the deficit to 14-7. But Amersham were still far from playing second fiddle and extended their lead on the half hour with a penalty. Indiscipline by the home side was finally punished with a yellow card. However, despite the numerical disadvantage Sutton finished the first period in the ascendancy with two crucial tries. Firstly, Kyren Ghumra ran down the flank, chipped ahead, regathered and offloaded to Andy Matthews to touch down. Then crucially deep in time added on in the first half Jamie See weaved his way through the defence to score. The reliable boot of Steve Munford added the conversions as S&E turned around 21-17 to the good.

One can imagine both sets of coaches had plenty to say during the interval. Sutton opened the second period with more intensity and control to encamp in the opposition 22. Amersham showed great resilience with a notable effort driving back an attacking S&E line out which reminded the hosts that they still had plenty of work to do to secure a victory. After ten minutes a kick ahead by Jamie See saw Andy Matthews envelope the defender and Jamie See followed up with a fly-hack and chase to complete his second try. Within ten minutes the Black & Whites extended their lead to 33-17 with a very scrappy score. Ian White was alert to the situation as he kicked ahead a loose ball and cantered home to score. Sutton continued to turn the screw and camped on the A&C line with Theo Skoumbourdis eventually forcing his way over for a try and a comforting 38-17 lead. To their great credit Amersham surged back as the Black & Whites failed to secure the restart. Having already run back a poor clearance kick and created a chance they went one better when offered a similar opportunity to record a fine score. With 15 minutes to go and a 14-point lead was there going to be another twist in the game and a nail-biting conclusion for the crowd. However, a couple of minutes later Jamie See completed his hat trick as he waltzed through the defence from twenty metres out to score under the posts. The final ten minutes was a frenetic affair with the greatest surprise being the fact that there was no further addition to the score. Amersham dropped the ball a yard from the line, the excellent James Caddy made a 50 metre break as the clock ran down. The final whistle was greeted with rapturous applause as Sutton & Epsom secured National 3 rugby for the 2017-18 season.

Ultimately it has been a successful season for the Black & Whites with the top priority to establish themselves at the higher level. It is a truism that this is a very competitive league a fact underlined by the point that Sutton would have been relegated with 51 points and ten wins but for points deductions to not only Southend Saxons but also most significantly to Chichester. Consistency is the key and S&E with the experience of this campaign will hope that they will have learned a great deal and will be able to build on this year’s experiences. For the spectators they have had a thrilling rollercoaster ride witnessing numerous games decided in the final moments. For the players they now appreciate the task of Level 5 rugby, the increased physical demands, the clinical efficiency of the top teams and the reality that there are no easy games. 43 players have donned the Black & White shirt this season representing the 1st XV with Matt Harwood the solitary player to play all 26 games, each and every one of them thoroughly deserve their summer break. It would terribly remiss not to mention James Caddy who has captained the side with great passion and epitomises the team spirit that is synonymous with Sutton rugby.

Sutton Team: Stefan Cooksammy, Kyren Ghumra, Andy Matthews, Dave Dyer, Ian Knott, Jamie See, Steve Munford, Raynn Bruce, Seb Bonizzi, Theo Skoumbourdis, Matt Harwood, Mike Blakeburn, Shiv Patel, George London, James Caddy (capt). Replacements: (all used) Craig Bellringer, Ian White, Frankie Murray.

 

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