rugby-1Shelford 13- 8 Sutton & Epsom
On a crisp autumnal afternoon Sutton visited the Cambridgeshire club that was one place below them in the National 3 table. Both clubs had similar early season records and it promised to be a close encounter. This was to be the case not only in terms of expectations but also ultimately on the scoreboard. The hosts ran out narrow 13-8 victors. The Black & Whites returned to Rugby Lane with a bonus point but as with the previous away defeat against Chichester there was a deep sense of frustration.

Shelford started the better of the two sides with their pack determined to impose themselves on the opposition. Their positive start was rewarded with an early penalty from full-back Simon Hrbek. As is so often the case in rugby he team having scored conceded a penalty from the re-start. Sam Hurley gratefully accepted the opportunity to level the scores.

The remainder of the first quarter was an entertaining affair as both sides counterattacked effectively from turnover ball. For Sutton & Epsom Sam Hurley came close to gaining the lead from a penalty. Meanwhile the Davey Field fly-half Michael Gillick’s chip and chase under the posts was denied. However, after a period of sustained pressure the visitor’s valiant defence was breached with a try in the corner. Simon Hrbek converted from the touchline for Shelford to lead 10-3.

S&E worked hard to get an attacking platform. Their opportunity came from an unexpected source. The referee penalised the Cambridgeshire pack at a scrum on the halfway line. To add to the punishment a yellow card was issued. Jamie See kicked to touch and from the line out the forwards sustained a rolling maul for 30 metres to under the posts. The ball was spread wide and Andy Matthews touched down in the corner. Sam Hurley narrowly missed the touchline conversion.

The teams turned around with the home team leading 10-8. Sutton & Epsom failed to make their numerical advantage pay further dividends. Though with Matt Whitaker to the fore they had their best period of play fifteen minutes into the second period. They failed to score from a wonderful position. To add to the frustration Matt Whitaker sustained an injury and was forced off the field. The Black & Whites had also lost the powerful Neil Mauger to a shoulder injury in the first period.

The final quarter was a tense and turgid affair with neither three quarter line creating clear cut chances and the forwards slugging it out in midfield. Sam Hurley had a long range penalty that went close with 15 minutes to go. For Shelford it was familiar territory, having shaded Colchester by two points and being denied by Chichester by a single point, the Davey Field faithful prepared for an anxious final ten minutes. In the dying moments S&E were forced into conceding a penalty near their line. Simon Hrbek added the simple penalty that meant the Black & Whites re-started the game in the final minute needing a try to level the scores. The hosts stood firm and won a penalty at the breakdown. Frustrated by the circumstances and a quizzical word from the visitors had them marched back a further 10 metres. The resulting penalty was now practically in front of the posts and in comfortable range. The subsequent miss and final whistle enabled Sutton to depart with a losing bonus point, had it been converted they would have left the field with nothing.

S&E are proving themselves to be more than competitive at this level. Away from home they have two wins and a couple of agonising losses. The overwhelming feeling is one of frustration at not being able to find the winning formula. However, Shelford had a sizeable physical pack with excellent ball-carrying from Number 8 Richard McIver. They have won all their home fixtures including a victory over Guernsey and are an experienced outfit in National 3. For Sutton & Epsom Matt Whitaker had his best game of the season, James Fa’aatuatu carried strongly in the centres and the defensive resilience of the side was evident once more. The campaign continues with the visit of Surrey rivals Dorking next Saturday 29th October with a 3pm kick off at Rugby Lane.

Sutton Team: Sam Hurley, Kyren Ghumra, James Fa’aatuatu, Andy Matthews, Ian Knott, Jamie See, David Watts, Cezar Ionica, Seb Bonizzi, Craig Bellringer, Matt Harwood, Neil Mauger, James Colclough, James Caddy (cast), Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used): Seb Mroz, George London, Jonjo Wadwa.

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