Tonbridge Juddians 25-11 Sutton & Epsom
On a crisp afternoon Sutton & Epsom travelled to table-toppers Tonbridge Juddians. Steve Munford took over the captaincy reins with regular skipper, James Caddy, and Stefan Cooksammy seeking the Lamp of Phoebus and rugby glory in Dubai. The last time the clubs met in a league fixture it was during TJs promotion season of 2010-11 and from this evidence there is no reason why the Kent Club should not secure the title they covet this season. The hosts secured what they no doubt expected, a bonus point win, but were mightily impressed with the Black & Whites performance in a pulsating 25-11 encounter.
For details of all of the club’s actuivities go to RUGBY
Sutton opened the match brightly with quick possession and plenty of intent. Tonbridge Juddians early efforts were hampered by a misfiring line out which was remarkable considering the size of their second row. More than one promising position within the S&E 22 was squandered. In the tenth minute such was the league leaders frustration they opted to kick for goal rather than the corner for a catch and drive. The points were gratefully accepted for a hard earned 3-0 lead. There was no let up as the home team laid siege to the Sutton & Epsom line forcing a succession of penalties which resulted in a yellow card. With the numerical advantage Tonbridge Juddians went wide from a 5 metre scrum and deft footwork secured a try in the corner to extend the lead to 8 points.
If the The Slade crowd thought that the lowly visitors would now be put to the sword they had a surprise. The Black & Whites tore into the opposition with spirit and purpose. Debutant Dave Dyer twice carried up the ball to within the 5 metre area. The Kent team’s defence was magnificent not only halting the wave of attacks but driving them back. Sutton did not panic and were rewarded for patiently retaining possession with a Steve Munford penalty. The Tonbridge assault resumed and S&E were unfortunate to lose Pete Matthews to an ankle injury in the 30th minute. The reorganised back division saw Frankie Murray come off the bench to fly-half and Jamie See switch to the centres. Penalties in the Sutton half continued to hamper their effort. A 5 metre line out led to Juddians being held up over the line. From the ensuing scrum they secured the pushover try. Then with the final play of the half the home crowd were relieved to see their team finally execute the catch and drive for a third try and an 18-3 interval lead.
This season the half-time interval has been more of an irritation than a welcome breather and Sutton & Epsom’s level has dropped in the third quarter. Against the league leaders the opposite was the case. Combining quick possession, intelligent kicking and a willingness to run the ball the men from Surrey produced their best rugby of the season. Buoyed by another Steve Munford penalty soon after the re-start the lead was cut to 18-6. The best was still to come. A Jamie See break gave Sam Hurley the ball near halfway, the full back’s touchline hugging sprint evaded the cover for a spectacular try in the corner. Despite being allowed two attempts the conversion against the wind from the extremities was missed but Sutton were within a score and trailing 18-11. This was not the result of Tonbridge Juddians resting on their laurels but due to first class play by the visitors. The table-toppers then pressed hard for their fourth try and the vital bonus point. The TJs back division are the best in the league with great variety as they employ pace and power allied to deft kicking. They were unlucky not to score when a wonderful cross kick just evaded the wing with the cover totally beaten. However, minutes later their pressure won a very hard earned try that was duly converted for a 25-11 lead.
The fact that the last quarter of an hour had no further addition to the score was down to the magnificent teamwork of Sutton. The effort, tackling and discipline were exemplified by James Faaatuatu, as willing in defence as attack, and Dan Wood who covered every blade of grass but not one of the 18-man squad was anything but superb. Tonbridge Juddians are the best team in National League 3 and justifiably sit on top of the pile. The leaders have crucial away games against Hertford and Westcombe Park before the festive break where victories would go a long way towards securing the title they cherish. For the Black & Whites this game illustrated that they are a rapidly improving team and should relish every fixture for the remainder of the campaign despite their current lowly position.
The season continues with a 3pm kick off next Saturday 10th December with a crucial game against Westcliff. This will mark the midpoint of the campaign with our visitors from Essex being our final opponents in National League 3.