Sutton & Epsom 33-17 Southend Saxons
After six consecutive defeats it was a case of seven being the lucky number as Sutton recorded their first win since September 24th. Having endured narrow defeats and securing losing bonus points a victory was long overdue.
Improved performances had created a pre-match air of optimism and the team did not disappoint delivering a 33-17 success providing a most satisfying outcome for the Black & Whites over a robust Southend who fought hard until the final whistle.
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S&E had some last minute disruption with regular stand off Jamie See delayed, Steve Munford switched to 10 and David Watts started at 9. For their part the visitors had been denied their first two fly-half options through injuries. Sutton & Epsom were on the front foot from the kick off as Matt Whitaker gathered the kick and charged downfield. After 3 minutes a Steve Munford penalty was a just reward for a bright opening. However, as has often been the case in recent weeks, an error created danger. A wayward pass was fly-hacked from halfway and only a fine try-saving tackle by James Faaatuatu prevented a try after several attacking phases by the Saxons. Five minutes later it was the hosts who were denied by a timely interception. There followed a period where the Sutton pack besieged the try line. The Essex team’s defence was outstanding. David Watts was held up over the line but from the ensuing scrum it was fed to James Faaatuatu on the wing, as on several occasions this season he was unstoppable from close range. Steve Munford added a touchline conversion to extend the lead to 10-0.
The first-half was not one way traffic by any means. Southend lock Leavasa Potu was prominent and carried with great effect and was denied a try-scoring chance when penalised for crossing. The Rugby Lane crowd were relieved to applaud a Matt Whitaker try from a well crafted line out move. Steve Munford added the simple conversion and a further penalty before the break to give the hosts a 20-0 interval lead.
Second halves have become rather a drought for the Black & Whites in recent weeks and the outcome was certainly no foregone conclusion. To emphasise the point the Saxons scored within 10 minutes of the restart. An errant 5 metre line out was poached and the try conceded. The conversion was missed but the lead reduced to 20-5. Pessimistic supporters were reassured as Sutton took advantage of their territorial and numerical superiority to punish the Sumpters Way team’s lack of discipline with two additional penalties. What had been a very physical encounter had become fractious with a flurry of yellow cards. With ten minutes to go a well worked try in the corner and a superb touchline conversion breathed life into the visitors who trailed 26-12. However, the redoubtable James Faaatuatu burst through tackles to score by the posts to guarantee victory. Steve Munford converted to bring his personal tally to 18 points as S&E led 33-12. There was still time for Southend to score again and set up a breathless last few minutes as both teams searched for a fourth try and the additional point. Stefan Cooksammy, who had been a constant threat all afternoon, weaved his way through and only a retreating defender intercepting his pass denied the Black & Whites a spectacular finale.
Understandably there was as much relief as joy in gaining a win after a long period without success. This was a strong team performance as the pack held its own in the set piece and provided ample quick ball for the backs. James Faaatuatu had another outstanding game thoroughly deserving his brace of tries and was ably assisted by Stefan Cooksammy whose power and elusive running was a feature of the afternoon. The campaign continues next Saturday with a trip to top of the table Tonbridge Juddians.
Sutton Team: Sam Hurley, Ian Knott, Stefan Cooksammy, Pete Matthews, James Faaatuatu, Steve Munford, David Watts, Raynn Bruce, Seb Bonizzi, Cezar Ionica, James Colclough, Matt Harwood, James Caddy, Dan Wood, Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used) Barney Cowie, George London, Jamie See.