Sutton & Epsom 22-31 Guernsey
The Channel Islanders arrived fresh from their thrilling 50-45 victory over Dorking the previous Saturday so Sutton appreciated the severity of the challenge that Guernsey held. The visitors may have flown home with a deserved bonus point win but it was by no means a formality. The dogged defensive work and second half come back by the hosts will have given them much encouragement for the remainder of the season.
The Raiders opened the game playing expansively in the rainy conditions forcing an early penalty to take a 3-point lead. With their large pack putting Sutton under pressure in the scrummage and their formidable catch and drive in the line out they created early opportunities. Hampered by the wet conditions and faulty handling they failed to turn their territorial advantage into points. The Black & Whites resistance gave them confidence to attack and in the twentieth minute Jamie See made a wonderful break but 5 metres from the line his pass was dropped and a try went begging.
Guernsey finally scored on the half hour after driving their line out ball to the S&E line fly half Owen Thomas powered over from close range. The conversion duly added, the lead was extended to 10-0. However, minutes later James Fa’aatuatu, playing in the centres, pounced on a loose ball to race home under the posts from the halfway. This rewarded his tremendous defensive effort which saw him relentlessly tackle and harass the opposition all afternoon. Sam Hurley added the extras. The Rugby Lane crowd were then given the perfect tonic on the stroke of half-time. A high tackle on Pete Matthews gave Sam Hurley a simple penalty in front of the posts and Sutton & Epsom turned around 10-10.
The Channel Islanders began the second period determined that their considerable pack would create pressure and points. In the third quarter they appeared to have found the formula for victory. A try from another well executed catch and drive was followed by a series of penalties on the Sutton 5 metre line. The end result was a second score via a penalty try and the Black & Whites reduced to 14 men through a yellow card. The visitors were now in a commanding 24-10 lead with a numerical advantage. Rather than meekly subsiding the home team stormed back at their opponents. As the Raiders attempted to counterattack from near their line the S&E backs forced an error. Kyren Ghumra was on hand to intercept and score. The 14 men were back in the game. If that may have been described as fortuitous the next score was the product of wonderful play. Jamie See slalomed through the Raiders defence and despite the initial chance being squandered the forwards recycled the ball for James Fa’aatuatu to stride over from close range. With Sam Hurley adding the conversion the lead was cut to 24-22 and the game was in the balance.
Stunned by the Rugby Lane rally the visitors returned to their power game. As soon as they got a sniff of the line the forwards manufactured a bonus point fourth try. With a nine point cushion and ten minutes to go the hosts looked to get at least a bonus point via either a fourth try or narrowing the deficit to the necessary margin. The Raiders to their credit frustrated Sutton by monopolising territory and possession denying the Black & Whites an attacking platform. Despite one last-ditch counterattack in time added on the hosts were prevented from enjoying even a solitary consolation bonus point.
Guernsey were well worth their victory as their formidable pack had the better of possession and territory to provide ample ball for their powerful back division. That said the resilience, defensive hard work and team spirit demonstrated by Sutton & Epsom warranted at least a point from the fixture. James Fa’aatuatu had an immense game and was synonymous with all that was good in the Black & White’s performance.
The season has a break next Saturday and all the players will enjoy a weekend off for rest and recuperation before hostilities resume on Saturday 22nd October when Sutton visit Shelford.
Finally, it would remiss not to mention James Bennett who was expecting an enjoyable Friday evening hooking for the Vets but answered the call to the first team colours. As ever he performed magnificently, see you next Tuesday at training Benny!
Team: Angus McCurdie, Kyren Ghumra, James Fa’aatuatu, Pete Matthews, Sam Hurley, Jamie See, David Watts, Raynn Bruce, James Bennett, Cezar Ionica, Matt Harwood, Neil Mauger, Felix Symonds, George London, James Caddy. Replacements (all used): Sebastian Mroz, Barney Cowie, Jonjo Wadwa.
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