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Latest 1st XV match report

Redruth Maintain Momentum Despite Stylish Sutton
Sutton & Epsom 22-41 Redruth
Redruth arrived at Rugby Lane in a rich vein of form that had garnered eleven consecutive victories including toppling TJs, the Hawks and the Titans on their intended journey to the Promised Land of National 1. Back in November the Black & Whites and their sizeable following decamped at the Recreation Ground to savour the delights of Hellfire Corner. The Cornishmen were comfortable 49-12 victors but the visitors had a memorable time at one of England’s most historic and hospitable grounds. With West Country eyes on promotion but the suburban gaze of the hosts on the relegation zone it was a significant fixture for both parties. The visitors returned with the vital 5-point win but Sutton deserved a lot of credit in the 22-41 defeat and were most unfortunate to miss out on a bonus point or two.

It speaks volumes for the low expectations for the weather this season that a gloomy, cold afternoon with a breeze was greeted like perfect playing conditions. For the loyal follower of the Black & Whites it must be tempting to turn up after 20 minutes so frequent has the first quarter malaise been this campaign. So the side that set off at 6:15 am and spent hours on a coach were the faster out of the blocks in the early exchanges. Redruth raced to a 12-point lead in the opening quarter of an hour. They registered their first try from an efficient catch and drive from a lineout with hooker Suva Maasi touching down. The second try epitomised the Cornishmen’s superior awareness. A ball went loose at a lineout on halfway, Sutton looked on whilst Sam Stevens sped away and a couple of passes later Todd Prisk sauntered in for the try. With Fraser Honey adding the conversion it appeared to be the start on a relaxing afternoon for the title challengers.

Finally, S&E awoke as the team powered into contact and bundled the ball carriers into touch. From a lineout in the middle of the park an errant throw was gratefully accepted by Theo Skoumbourdis and the captain burst into open field. His offload found Izaiha Moore-Aiono who bulldozed his way towards the 22. Just when the Rugby Lane crowd feared the flanker was isolated on the deck Theo Skoumbourdis appeared to clear out the ruck using every ounce of his not inconsiderable bulk. The ball was spun wide to expose the retreating defence and winger Jacob Bushnell popped the ball inside for Sam Hurley to complete a fabulous score. James Bourton added the touchline conversion for 7-12. From such dizzy heights Sutton conceded a soft penalty on halfway to enable Fraser Honey to put the hosts back on the defensive. The formidable catch and drive had the visitors poised to score. Ben Holt received a yellow card at the break down. From the scrum under the posts Fraser Honey exploited a gap to cross the whitewash before adding the extras for 19-7. Five minutes before the break the Surrey side received a morale boosting bonus of a perfectly struck James Bourton penalty. With no further additions to the scoreboard the teams turned around with the Recreation Ground men 19-10 ahead.

Within five minutes of the restart the target of the Reds secured the bonus point for their fourth try. Once again Suva Maasi was the beneficiary of a clinical catch and drive from the lineout. The brace of tries for the hooker was a just return for the all-action number 2 who had an outstanding afternoon. Sutton were not going to meekly subside and five minutes later they had scored a second try that was even better than their first. A long clearance kick was taken by Sam Hurley inside his half and with space available it was transferred right. The centre combination of See and Bourton made considerable inroads as the ball was delivered to the far corner where Sam Hurley was again on hand to score courtesy of a Kyren Ghumra offload. The cut and thrust of the contest created an absorbing spectacle. The visitors were not prepared to relax on their lead and returned to the attack. Once in the Sutton 22 there was an ominous feeling of inevitability as they retained possession and worked their way through the phases advancing relentlessly to the try line. This time it was loose-head prop Tommy Phillips who emerged from the mass of players to claim the try. Fraser Honey converted to extend the lead to 33-15.

This pulsating fixture continued to provide entertainment as the Black & Whites returned to the opposition 22. From a scrum Jacob Bushnell came off his wing with a splendidly angled run to receive the ball and swat tacklers away and score under the posts. James Bourton did the necessaries. Trailing 22-33 with twenty minutes to go the prospects of S&E collecting some bonus points loomed large. Even a scrum penalty conceded on the hosts’ 22, that was kicked by Fraser Honey for 36-22, left the equation the same: a goal by Sutton would give them two bonus points. This appeared to have been achieved when Izaiha Moore-Aiono exploded through the cover and 5-metres from the line delicately kicked ahead and re-gathered the ball to touch down. But elation turned to desperation as the referee ruled that he had dropped the ball and not kicked it much to the bemusement of onlookers.

The game concluded with Redruth in the ascendancy. Seb Bonizzi made the briefest return to the colours only to receive a yellow card as S&E defended desperately near their line. Five minutes later 14 became 13 as Kyren Ghumra was adjudged to have intentionally knocked on near his line. Despite that verdict following the intervention of the Assistant Referee a penalty try was not awarded. It merely delayed the inevitable as the visitors scored their sixth and final try. The scorer was the man with a most challenging name for all commentators, Chris Fuca, the replacement back row forward. With the conversion drifting wide the game ended with the Reds victorious to the tune of 41-22.

First of all this was a tremendous game to watch as both sides produced many moments of quality. The visitors continued their wonderful winning run and kept up the pressure on the trio at the top. They are seven points off the top spot but have a game in hand over leaders Tonbridge Juddians and third-placed Hawks. The half-back combination of Jack Oulton and Fraser Honey is as good as any in this league. The astute game management and precision tactical kicking by Fraser Honey was a joy to behold. The Reds pack were formidable in the line out but equally outstanding in the loose, epitomised by tight-head Jess Tompsett’s prodigious work rate. The Cornishmen were worthy winners and will be hoping that frailty from teams above them will provide them with a route to promotion.

For the Black & Whites this was one of the performances of the season. If only they could start the game at a high tempo rather than in hibernation and eradicate the needless penalties they would be competitive against all comers. The quality of passing in the backs was much improved as time and again players ran onto the ball at pace. Matt Whitaker and Izaiha Moore-Aiono strived to keep S&E on the front foot as they carried aggressively and with great effect all afternoon. The team were rewarded with three excellent tries and certainly deserved one, if not two, bonus points for their sterling endeavours. However, with Westcliif’s Woollam win over OAs the prospects of survival look extremely bleak as the Essex club have a very plump cushion of a 13-point lead over Sutton & Epsom.

The season continues in a fortnight’s time. For S&E Saturday 14th March is a rest weekend and for those who were expecting the Black & Whites to be heading to Blaby to face Leicester Lions to fulfil the postponed fixture Sutton were trumped by an earlier Midlands meteorological mishap as TMDP Park will be hosting Redruth. For Sutton the campaign returns to Rugby Lane on 21st March with the visit of fellow strugglers Old Redcliffians. In November at Scotland Lane the teams fought out an honourable 10-10 draw in dreadful conditions.

Sutton & Epsom: Sam Hurley, Kyren Ghumra, James Bourton, Jamie See, Jacob Bushnell, Jacob Knight, Ben Holt, David Coutts, Chris Farrell, Theo Skoumbourdis (c), George Drye, Sam Collingridge, Ollie Kilgallon, Izaiha Moore-Aiono, Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used): Raynn Bruce, Seb Bonizzi, Joe Ridgley, Michael Cooke & Stefan Cooksammy.


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