Sutton & Epsom off to a winning start over Dover
12:58pm Monday 9th September 2013 in Other Rugby
By Paul Phillips
For the second time in four seasons, Sutton & Epsom opened their London One South campaign with a home fixture against Dover.
In 2010, Dover scored seven tries in a 42-15 victory and as evidence of the extensive and positive changes at Cuddington Court only Frankie Murray, Austin Sheppard and Neville Harrington remained in the Sutton squad from the starting line up three years ago.
Meanwhile, Dover have established themselves as an upper half of the table team and this opening match was expected to provide a stern test for Sutton following their promotion last season.
This would be even more challenging with three key members of the forwards absent; Matt Whittaker, Mike Blakeburn and Shawn Renwick.
There were also three debutants in the Sutton side; Warren Steyn (centre), Chris Hitchcock (fly – half) and Raynn Bruce (prop).
However, it was Sutton’s reshuffled pack who were the key to a 17-12 victory over Dover, with stand in captain James Caddy outstanding both in the loose and with the ball in hand, while Sam Hurley’s assured place kicking in the first half meant Sutton could penalise Dover for their errors.
With the breeze at their backs, Sutton started the first half more positively and it only took seven minutes to open their scoring account for the season.
A clean line-out catch from Steve Burton, led to a well-rehearsed back move with full back Ian Knott joining the line, he slipped past two defenders and presented an easy try for Mike Cartledge from 30m.
The conversion attempt from Hurley went astray, but Sutton had the advantage in open play and sought every opportunity to attack through their backs, with Knott looking especially dangerous as a ball carrier.
This pressure began to tell upon Dover and in a nine minute period they conceded three penalties, which Hurley kicked, and Sutton had quickly established a 14-point lead.
Steyn had to leave the field with an injury after 30 minutes and Dover started to exert more pressure upon the Sutton scrum which led to number eight Caddy and scrum-half Frankie Murray often scrabbling for clean possession.
With their first prolonged attack, Dover scored their initial try as their fly half and captain, Ben Sedgewick, took a quick tap penalty and managed to evade some loose tackling by Sutton to score close to the posts.
With the conversion Dover cut Sutton’s lead to seven points at half time.
With the impetus of their late first half try, Dover started the second half on the attack but a missed penalty attempt and some resolute defending from Sutton meant that they could not reduce the lead.
Instead Hurley extended Sutton’s advantage from a penalty in front of the Dover posts when the visitors offended at a scrum.
On the hour, Dover’s additional weight in the forwards finally rewarded them with a push over try from a line-out but the conversion was missed and left Sutton with a five-point lead.
Stop: Sam Hurley pulls a Dover attack to the ground SP79012
Despite further pressure, Dover were unable to add to their score in the final quarter of the game and the quality of Sutton’s defence was proven by the fact that no penalties, within kicking range, were conceded.
Hurley missed a difficult penalty into the wind before the end of the match but this was a victory that will have pleased the Sutton management and coaches, in particular with a number of key players absent, against a team that will have aspirations to once again be looking for a top half of the table finish this season.
Next Saturday Sutton & Epsom travel to old rivals Haywards Heath, a team that only avoided relegation on the final day of the season last year.
Team: Ian Knott, Mike Cartledge, Warren Steyn, Pete Matthews, Sam Hurley, Chris Hitchcock, Frankie Murray, Raynn Bruce, Phil Williams, Nick Dougal, Austin Sheppard, Felix Symonds, Steve Burton, Joe Ridgley, James Caddy.
Subs: Jak Martin, Neville Harrington, Dave Crowest
Instructions: Sutton & Epsom head coach Jeff Parsons have something to say SP79012
Onwards: Mike Cartledge tries to break free of the Dover defence SP79012
Runner: Ian Knott with his socks round his ankles SP79012
Get out of it: Austin Sheppard holds off a Dover challenge SP79012
Coming through: Pete Matthews attracts the attention of the Dover defence SP79012
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