Sutton & Epsom’s director of rugby, Rowland Cheall, and his coaching team will feel more than a little hard done by that Sutton & Epsom did not secure even a losing bonus point in Saturday’s match against Cobham, being defeated 24-11.
On paper, Cobham secured a convincing win by scoring four tries to one, however in reality matters were much different with possibly two of the visitor’s tries that might not have been allowed on another day.
The match went ahead at Rugby Lane thanks to the efforts of a small army of volunteers who had spent the morning clearing water off the pitch.
Cobham came into the game on the back of an impressive run of only one defeat in their last eight matches, including victories over Wimbledon, Chobham and Chichester away from home.
The visitors displayed their understandable confidence in the opening minutes of the match when a sweeping move across the pitch resulted in full back Johnny Whebe scoring in the left hand corner.
Messy: Guy Stuckey-Clarke tackles in the mud
The conversion was blown off course by the wind but Cobham had made their attacking intentions clear.
The injury hoodoo that has followed Sutton all season struck again before the game.
Hooker, Ed Spackman, was injured in the warm up and was replaced by Paul Webster, and, to make matters worse, Warren Steyn suffered concussion early in the first half and had to be replaced.
Joe Ridgley was moved to outside centre and Steve Burton slotted into the second row.
The loss of Spackman meant that the Sutton line-out was under pressure all afternoon and prevented the pack from establishing their usually effective driving maul.
Sam Hurley opened Sutton’s account with a penalty after eight minutes, however he then fell foul of the referee for illegally holding on to the ball on the ground and was sent to the touchline for 10 minutes.
With Hurley off the field, Cobham launched a rolling maul from a line-out and with the Sutton defence in some disarray the inevitable pushover try followed.
On the move: Mike Blakeburn tries to get away from a Cobham tackle
The conversion was missed again but Cobham now had a handy 3-10 lead.
Sutton started to get their game moving through their pack although a number of prolonged attacks were withheld by Cobham.
The visitors seemed happy to sit on their lead but with five minutes of the half remaining the ball was knocked forward by Cobham near the Sutton line.
Players from both teams stopped awaiting the whistle, but James Whebe continued playing and placed the ball over the try line.
The referee signalled the try to the astonishment of the Sutton team and most of the crowd.
Following the conversion, Sam Hurley added a 40m penalty on the stroke of half time to reduce the deficit to nine points at 6-15.
Jeff Parsons’ half time team talk had the desired effect, as Sutton and their mobile pack had the better of the early exchanges in the second half, but it was winger Andy Nichols who unlocked the Cobham defence.
From a tap penalty, the ball was spun wide and Nichols executed a perfectly weighted kick ahead and he beat the covering defence to touch down.
The conversion attempt was diverted off course by the wind but with just four points between the teams the final outcome was impossible to predict.
Offload: Warren Steyn is about to bring Mike Blakeburn into the action
Sutton now enjoyed their best phase of the game, with willing ball carriers throughout the pack, as they searched desperately for another way through the Cobham defence.
Raynn Bruce, James Caddy and Mike Blakeburn were always prominent while Shawn Renwick and Jonjo Wadwa combined excellently at number eight and scrum half respectively.
With time running out, Sutton launched another attack, however Wadwa’s kick ahead was hacked back down field by a Cobham defender with the Sutton defence caught flat footed.
Cobham managed to recycle the ball from a ruck and as the ball bounced loose in the Sutton in goal area, the Cobham fly half, Farrelly, and Hurley appeared to touch the ball simultaneously.
The referee awarded a try to Cobham and, to rub salt into the wounds, Farrelly kicked the conversion off the post thereby leaving Sutton with nothing for their considerable efforts all afternoon.
This had been a stoical all round team performance by Sutton against one of the league’s in form sides and more performances like that between now and the end of the season will reinforce a very respectable mid table position.
This weekend, Sutton & Epsom entertain Haywards Heath, who have yet to register a win this season, in a rearranged fixture at Rugby Lane, kick off is at 2.30pm.
Shirty: Joe Ridgely
Together: Raynn Bruce and Paul Webster
Here: Chris Hitchcock passes to Shawn Renwick
Attracting attention: Steve Warnham
Getting away: George London
Carrier: Tariq Al Khaldi
In his wake: Shawn Renwick makes a break for it
Brotherly love: James Caddy and Chris Hitchcock
Hoorah: Sam Hurley and Andy Nicholls celebrate Sutton's only try of the game
Weaver: Jonjo Wadwa