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Tring Triumph as Sutton Errors Prove Costly
Sutton & Epsom 14-31 Tring
The last time Tring visited Rugby Lane they forced Sutton to put their champagne back on ice and delayed the Black & Whites’ coronation until the following week at Putnoe Woods. On this occasion the expression ‘these things come in threes’ sprung to mind as S&E lost Ross Crabtree and George London to illness and Kyren Ghumra to an injury at work in the days before the game.

However, it offered the opportunity for two homegrown youngsters to make their 1st XV debuts as Rob Hegarty started on the flank and Dan Jones eagerly awaited the call from the bench. After a thoroughly entertaining game, despite the challenging conditions, the visitors secured their seventh win of the campaign with a 31-14 success.Gareth O’Brien set the game in motion with a strong wind on his back and dark skies overhead as the hosts had the elements in their favour for the first period. Having charged down a clearance kick Sutton were awarded a penalty from the ensuing confusing. The ball was kicked into the corner to provide a fine opportunity to open the scoring from a 5-metre line out. The throw was errant, the ball was lost and the first of many costly errors was made. The Hertfordshire side five minutes later, on their first venture to the Surrey 22, were awarded a penalty. Ben Hogan bisected the uprights for a 3-0 lead. With the S&E line out continuing to struggle there was more woe from the first scrum that was shunted back 5 metres but this was a mere bagatelle for Matt Whitaker who picked up the ball on the retreat to maraud forward in familiar style. Further pressure from the Rugby Lane XV gave Sam Hurley the opportunity to level the scores which he accepted for 3-3 after a dozen minutes.

As both teams adjusted to the wind, as high kicks were blown back from whence they came, it was Tring who regained the lead. A splendid try created by fine support play and perfectly timed passing saw Charles Goss-Lambourne stride home. Ben Hogan added the extras for a 10-3 lead. Moments later the Dorian Williams faithful were applauding their second try. A stout palm off created a breach in the defences on halfway and accurate passing created the overlap for Rory Hardman to sprint over the whitewash. Though the conversion was blown astray Tring had an impressive 15-3 lead playing against the wind.

After being starved of possession the hosts started to put some phases together. However, a theme began whereby possession was gifted back to the visitors with a series of knock-ons. A fine run by Gareth O’Brien resulted in a penalty that was gratefully accepted by Sam Hurley who reduced the deficit to 6-15. A couple of minutes later Tring dropped the ball in midfield after a promising 5-metre line out. For a brief moment Jacob Bushnell’s fly-hack and chase promised great things but an awkward bounce defeated him. Sutton were soon on the front foot again through a wonderful run by Brad Meeson. When Sam Hurley garnered his third penalty of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time it was a fair reward for a resurgent S&E. The sides turned around with Tring 15-9 to the good as they took the long walk back to the dressing room.

It was an afternoon when those in attendance contemplated how many points the wind was worth so facing a 9-point deficit for the second half the odds were stacked against the Black & Whites. Tring soon increased their advantage to 18-9 through Ben Hogan’s trusty boot as Sutton were punished for the first of three misdemeanours that were to blight their second half. The Hertfordshire team took every opportunity to send S&E scurrying back to their 22 with raking kicks aided by the gusting wind but it provided the opportunities to counter as it was impossible for the kick chase to exert pressure. However, time and again encouraging phases for the hosts ended in inexplicable knock-ons gifting the visitors’ possession. With half an hour remaining Tring were thwarted on the Sutton line but the latter’s counter ended with another penalty conceded. Ben Hogan chipped the ball over for a 21-9 lead. S&E were left chasing the game as Tring were in the territory of game management for the remainder of the proceedings.

Tring were soon on the attack again as a sweeping movement to the left hand flank seemed destined to lead to a try but Sutton were indebted to an excellent try-saving tackle from Gareth O’Brien. As the match entered the final quarter Matt Whitaker broke down field but was isolated from the supporting forwards. To add insult to his injury the visitors were awarded another penalty. The talismanic 8 departed to be replaced by Luke Halford. The delay in proceedings did not put off Ben Hogan who punished S&E once more for 24-9. The hosts would require three scores to overhaul the deficit, a very unlikely scenario given the elements, with the visitors, no doubt, wanting to press for a bonus point.

From a 5-metre line out and an advancing catch and drive the Dorian Williams travelling support anticipated a try but their men conceded a penalty. Inevitably Sutton threw caution to the wind and ran the ball at every opportunity. Stefan Cooksammy set in motion a thrilling counter and lock Euan McTaggart found himself in acres of space on halfway. The galloping forward gratefully passed to Gareth O’Brien. A few phases later saw Luke Halford inches short of glory. It was Tring’s turn to be saved by the shrill blast of Mr Buchanan’s whistle. The best moment of the Black & White’s afternoon was tarnished by the loss of centre Brad Meeson, who had had an excellent game, to a broken nose. The team was reorganised with Stefan Cooksammy moving to the familiar environs of centre as Dan Jones entered the fray to make his debut on the flank.

The game was becoming very open with excitement at both ends of the paddock. Finally, the hosts paid the ultimate penalty for their poor handling. The ball was passed out to the left wing only to hit the turf on the touchline near halfway. A grateful Ted Stanford ran the ball in with the defenders in his wake. Will Mitchell took over the kicking duties to add the conversion for 31-9. As the game entered time added on it was left to see if Tring could secure a bonus point or whether Sutton could get a consolation try. The Surrey men advanced to the Hertfordshire 22 and ball came to debutant Dan Jones who had plenty to do but his winding run defied all defenders to score a magnificent try. The conversion was a rapidly taken as a misdirected drop-kick and the game continued with 31-14 on the scoreboard.

Sutton had their consolation could Tring get their bonus. The victors were in prime position with a 5-metre line out. Considering their total dominance in winning possession either on their throw or stealing the ball there was a good deal of excitement in the visiting ranks. Unexpectedly there was a rare moment of line out incompetence from the visitors and Sutton secured possession and the referee ended the contest. The Hertfordshire team fully deserved their triumph as they recorded their best ever win at Rugby Lane. The much heavier Tring pack dominated the set scrum in the early exchanges, their line out was as solid as Sutton’s was frail and their back division had not only pace but impressive handling. The visitors have all the elements to be very competitive against all-comers and when an opposition makes the number of errors that Sutton provided there was likely to be only one result.

For the Black & Whites Rob Hegarty tackled relentlessly on debut whilst fellow debutant Dan Jones enjoyed a dream cameo with a try. Messrs Bushnell & Meeson carried well in the centres but the handling was a handicap that could not be overcome. A special mention to Stefan Cooksammy who revived youthful memories by filling in on the flank and he was just as effective as he always is in the backs and for good measure he returned to his natural habitat for the last ten minutes. It was the third time in four matches at Rugby Lane that S&E had conceded 31 points and that is a burden that is most difficult to overcome. Sutton visit Braywick Park next Saturday for their first ever league encounter with the Berkshire club.

Sutton & Epsom
Gareth O’Brien, Sam Hurley, Jacob Bushnell, Brad Meeson, Andy Matthews, Jamie See ©, Ross Parsons, Tom Boaden, Chris Farrell, Will Lloyd, Matt Harwood, Ewan McTaggart, Stefan Cooksammy, Rob Hegarty, Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used): Luke Halford, Dan Jones & Owen Clemett.

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