Sutton & Epsom hold off Staines fightback
12:03pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013 in Other Rugby
It was an extraordinary afternoon at The Reeves, where Sutton played like angels in the first half, but were then bemused by a vivid Staines backlash before emerging 41-26 winners.
Never has the cliché ‘a game of two halves’ been more potently revealed. The net result, however, was that Sutton recorded another five-point victory away from home and reclaimed second position in London One South.
That Staines have been suffering is known by all. Relegated from National Three last season without a win, they were also docked fifteen points, five of which were carried over to the present campaign. Add to that three heavy defeats, without the consolation of a single try, and the gloom of the home club may well be imagined.
And Sutton took full advantage of their host’s plight in a dynamic first-half display. Sutton were lean and mean, had focus and control, and pace to burn.
The result was five handsomely fashioned tries to the benefit of Pete Matthews (2), Andy Nichols, Shawn Renwick and Matt Whitaker. With Chris Hitchcock chipping in another nine points with the boot, Sutton were already home and dry, 34 points to the good.
The half-time message was clear enough – keep the focus, keep the control and the rest will follow. Wise words indeed, and for a few minutes in the second period this is precisely what happened.
But six minutes into the half, another promising Sutton move broke down and Staines raced away for an unimpeded interception try. That may have been a modest setback, but the first try of the season worked wonders for Staines, whose confidence grew with every passing minute.
Enter Chris Sheasby. The power and punch of the former England back-rower may have withered, but although he will be 47 years old next month he remains an iconic presence in the Staines side.
For the next half hour Staines drove into the rucks and mauls, spread the ball wide and plundered three more tries. A 34-point lead had been reduced to a miserly eight. Sutton were visibly rattled.
In fairness, Sutton’s cause was not helped by the departure of Pete Matthews, stretchered off with a knee injury – happily not as severe as first feared – or by the untimely banishment of Mike Blakeburn, or indeed the need to rejig the pack and back line.
But more important, Sutton rediscovered their mojo. With minutes remaining a furious forward drive created just enough room for Matt Whitaker, now playing in the not unaccustomed position of centre, and the skipper burst through the last line of defence for an unstoppable try at the posts. Chris Hitchcock duly added the major points and Sutton had won by 41-26. A stroll in the woods? Hardly!
Team: Ian Knott; Mike Cartledge, Andy Nichols, Pete Matthews, Jak Martin; Chris Hitchcock, Frankie Murray; Tariq Al Khaldi, Phil Williams Raynn Bruce, Felix Symonds, Mike Blakeburn, Matt Whitaker, James Caddy, Shawn Renwick. Replacements: Neville Harrington, Joe Ridgley, Dave Crowest.
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