Sutton & Epsom 42-19 Shelford
In five previous league encounters Shelford had been victorious on each occasion by slender margins of six or less points but the Black & Whites redressed the balance with their best win of the season to date. On a cold afternoon in Rugby Lane an appreciative crowd roared on a six-try 42-19 win that secured five vital points in this most competitive of leagues.
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Sutton started well in the first quarter dominating territory and possession playing with the breeze. A solitary Steve Munford penalty was their only reward. Shelford had defended resolutely and when they had the chance scored on their first visit to the S&E 22. Following a period of possession the forwards forced their way over in the corner. Simon Hrbek converted from the touchline to give the visitors a 7-3 lead. Sutton & Epsom went back on the attack and thought they had scored. A superb break by Jamie See saw James Colclough dive for the loose ball over the line, an obvious contender for the video ref but a try was correctly not awarded as the referee could not be certain with such a marginal call. However, moments later the clearance kick failed to reach touch. Kyren Ghumra kept it in play and passed inside to Stefan Cooksammy who countered with great vision down the narrow side outpacing the cover to score. Steve Munford added the conversion for a 10-7 lead. The hosts continued to monopolise territory and possession for the remaining ten minutes of the half. A penalty was kicked to the corner for an attacking line out. The forwards advanced it to the line where determined defence halted progress. As soon as it went wide Jamie See dummied his way through the tacklers to score under the posts to collect his first Sutton try. Steve Munford added the extras to extend the lead to 17-7. The Black & Whites were not finished and were desperately close to a third try but had to settle for a Steve Munford penalty. A 20-7 interval lead with Sutton in the ascendancy and playing with pace and confidence and the home supporters eagerly awaited the resumption.
The Cambridgeshire visitors responded in style. Benefiting from a turnover and couple of weak tackles their forwards carried to the 22 before releasing the backs for a try in the corner. Trailing 20-12 but scoring in the opening minute of the half meant the game was now in the balance. Previously this season such a set back would have undermined the confidence of the side but on this occasion it was Sutton who came back with greater resolution. Having forced a line out on the Shelford line when Ian Knott was bundled into touch the forwards pressured the defence so effectively that James Caddy charged down the clearance to score. S&E returned to the effective running rugby of the first period. James Faaatuatu and then Stefan Cooksammy carried well to set up an attacking line out. The forwards secured the ball and with excellent control ushered James Colclough over the line for the bonus point try and the Ilkley man’s first league try for the Black & Whites. 30-12 with half an hour remaining Sutton brought on their replacements.
The men from Davey Field needed inspiration and the next score if they were to have any chance of saving the game. Their excellent captain Richard McIver led by example with a surging run breaking tackles he offloaded to the supporting runner to score under the posts. 30-19 entering the fourth quarter but the men from Rugby Lane were not to be denied. Soon they were back on the attack with a five metre scrum but the visiting pack stood fast to earn their own put in. However, the S&E front row took one against the head and following patient build up Andy Matthews scored in the corner. With the lead extended to 35-19 the hosts continued to look for more tries with Stefan Cooksammy making considerable yards from full back and Jamie See exploiting space as the game was played at a furious pace. Shelford created a wonderful chance through a splendid kick to the corner but an injudicious comment to the referee gifted Sutton an escape route. With the game entering the closing stages a Frankie Murray box-kick to halfway was plucked from the sky by Kyren Ghumra who burst through and found Andy Matthews in space to sprint home. Frankie Murray added the conversion to draw proceedings to a conclusion with the final score 42-19.
This was the most complete performance of the season to date. The Black & Whites dominated territory and possession and the scoreline did not flatter them. The hosts dictated the style of play and the pace of the game from the outset preventing the visitors from establishing their own game plan. Stefan Cooksammy again impressed with his running from full-back whilst Jamie See had his best game of the campaign at 10. The forwards played with pace and control against a larger pack to provide ample possession for the backs who looked dangerous throughout. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the return to form of Andy Matthews after his enforced break through injury.
The campaign continues next Saturday 18th February with a visit to Brockham for the local derby against Dorking. There will certainly be a large gathering for this eagerly awaited fixture as Sutton hope to avenge the narrow 19-17 defeat back in October.
Sutton: Stefan Cooksammy, Ian Knott, Andy Matthews, James Faaatuatu, Kyren Ghumra, Jamie See, Steve Munford, Raynn Bruce, Seb Bonizzi, Theo Skoumbourdis, James Colclough, Matt Harwood, James Caddy, Shiv Patel, Matt Whitaker. Replacements (all used): Craig Bellringer, Joe Ridgley, Frankie Murray.