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Latest 1st XV match report

Sutton Topple Table Toppers
Sutton & Epsom 22-19 Westcliff
On a sunny but blustery afternoon those who attended this London & SE Premier fixture were richly entertained. The only negative note in this report concerns the paucity of the crowd. As the eventers flocked to Twickers with their pristine shirts emblazoned with the red rose to watch a meaningless friendly at exorbitant prices for the Tutu Tiara, or whatever they were playing for, the hard core fans of the Black & Whites were rewarded tenfold for their loyalty. So a deferential nod to the likes of Paul Beken, John Hardy and, lest we forget, ‘Berlin Blistered’ Bob Haime. Sutton enjoyed one of their finest afternoons in recent times to defeat a Westcliff XV at the peak of their powers by 22-19.

S&E kicked off with the strong wind at their backs. An injury to Jamie See meant that Jacob Knight stepped into the pivotal position of fly half and Andy Matthews started at inside centre. Meanwhile after impressing for the Swallows Jacob Bushnell made a starting debut on the wing and Tom Handford earned a place on the bench. The hosts started brightly and looked to play a fast open game with the priority of getting the ball to their flying wingers. The promising start came to fruition within ten minutes as a long pass from Steve Munford was gathered by Joe Ridgley who released Andy Matthews who shunned the overlap to power home for the opening score. As one would expect the Essex men came storming back and only a back-tracking Kyren Ghumra snaffled a ball when an equalising score looked on the cards. Invigorated by their lead Sutton & Epsom countered from their 22 as twinkle-toed Jamie Wilcock dummied and swerved through the defense to halfway to keep the team on the front foot. However, the men from The Gables are not atop of the table for nothing and they went ahead with a fine try. Strong running saw the ball carrier clamber through a tackle and offload. A wonderful jinking run saw the try line begging but the pass inside went to ground but quality support play guaranteed retention of the ball and Phil Dorant scored. With the conversion successful the visitors took a slender 7-5 lead.

The second quarter was a fluctuating affair. A Kyren Ghumra break looked like creating a try but a covering back poached the pass to relieve the Westcliff lines. The league leaders pressed hard to increase their lead but were thwarted by some fine last ditch tackling. At the culmination of the first period the feeling was that, not surprisingly, the team at the summit of the table were the better side though the home team were certainly not disgracing themselves. Westcliff were markedly more dynamic in contact, slicker with the handling and confident in their swarming defence.  However, Sutton had shown enough quality to leave the Rugby Lane faithful optimistic about their fortunes.

The referee restarted the contest with the men from Southend Airport enjoying the strong wind. In the opening ten minutes the team from the Eastern county set out to dampen the spirits of the hosts and put the upstarts in their place. Kyren Ghumra intercepted to prevent a try but that was a temporary stay of execution. Relentless pressure and admirable control saw Greg Bannister ushered over the line. The conversion made it 14-5 and worse was to follow for the home supporters moments later. A long clearance was gathered on halfway, the insipid kick chase was ruthlessly exposed as a delightful offload put Jack Jones in space to score in the corner. 19-5 to the good, a strong wind in their favour and Sutton on the ropes many thought it would be a case of damage limitation. Andy King and Seb Bonizzi came off the bench to join debutant Tom Handford who had earlier entered the fray to replace an injured Joe Ridgley. The Black & Whites were not daunted by the elements or the loftier status of their opponents and proceeded to tear into the opposition with a relish and determination that has seldom been seen in recent times. Five minutes of continuity and admirable control saw the ball arrive in the hands of Kyren Ghumra with space. The winger stepped inside at pace to score under the posts. Jacob Knight added the conversion to trail 12-19.

Immediately S&E were on the attack again as a quick tap penalty released Jacob Bushnell who kicked ahead and regathered and was only denied by sterling cover. However, Sutton were not to be thwarted and threw everything at Westcliff. Captain Caddy released Kyren Ghumra who had plenty still to do but the slight winger did exceptionally well to force himself over in the corner. The touchline conversion could not defeat the wind and the Rugby Lane men trailed narrowly 17-19. From the restart Andy King made a sensational break from his 22 weaving majestically 50 metres. Only magnificent defence prevented a try as several attacking phases were thwarted. It looked as if the opportunity had passed but Jacob Knight, relishing the responsibility of playing 10, broke for the line and showed the strength and perserverance to haul himself and a couple of tacklers over the whitewash. The Black & Whites were in the lead 22-19 entering the final quarter. Since conceding the two tries they were playing inspired rugby of which the home supporters believed they were capable but hardly dared believe that they would witness.

As one would expect from a team riding on the waves of recent success they were not going to subside meekly to defeat. Westcliff regathered their forces to regain the lead. As they upped the pace and forced their way back into Sutton territory they were awarded a penalty. It was 40 metres out but relatively straight with the wind behind. However, it was miscued and never threatened the uprights as it drifted left. Though they tried to force a decisive score errors aided the staunch home defence. With the game going into time added on the crowd endured a Sutton scrum in their own 22 that was reset multiple times. Finally, the ball was passed back to Jacob Knight who chipped it into touch and the referee blew the whistle to conclude a memorable win for the Black & Whites.

At half time this might have been the familiar tale of Sutton flattering to deceive against a higher ranked opponent. Ten minutes into the second half it certainly looked like a missed opportunity but a game from which to take some positives. Yet the last half hour was quite outstanding. Playing with passion, patience and precision S&E went from strength to strength. Tom Handford on the flank and Jacob Bushnell on the wing had notable debuts. What was most impressive was the clarity of purpose, quick ball and moving it wide with support runners. Coaches Mike Schmid and Paul Hodgson will be delighted that the hours of hard work in training finally has bore fruit for such a bounteous harvest. Jacob Knight had his finest game in the Black & White enjoying the extra duties imposed by the Number 10 shirt and orchestrating some wonderful attacking back play. Kyren Ghumra with a brace of tries demonstrated the clinical finishing that is required at this level. The pack worked so well as a team with each member contributing in carries, tackles and power in the set piece.

Next Saturday is a break from the league campaign and normal service resumes on 17th November with a trip to Broadwater to play our Surrey rivals Guildford who are enjoying a most successful start to their season.

Sutton: Tom Lennard, Jacob Bushnell, Jamie Wilcock, Andy Matthews, Kyren Ghumra, Jacob Knight, Steve Munford, Raynn Bruce, Chris Farrell, Theo Skoumbourdis, Eric Duey, Henry Day, James Caddy ( capt ), Joe Ridgley, George Drye. Replacements (all used): Seb Bonizzi, Tom Handford & Andy King

 

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