After a fractious encounter with a 19-17 defeat at Rugby Lane earlier in the campaign no-one doubted how much the Black & Whites wanted to redress the balance. On a sunny afternoon at the Big Field a large crowd enjoyed an enthralling spectacle that was in doubt even after the last kick of the game. A magnificent hat-trick by Andy Matthews and a last gasp penalty by Steve Munford saw Sutton home by 23-20.
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Sutton & Epsom kicked off with the elements and started brightly with Kyren Ghumra dragged to touch 5 metres short. The opening exchanges typified a local derby as both sides attempted to gain superiority. The crucial area, as ever, was the break down and the Dorking forwards successfully slowed down and disrupted the Sutton ball. A wonderful kick from Matt Noble put S&E on the defensive. After sustained pressure the hosts took the lead on fifteen minutes courtesy of the boot of Matt Noble. The next quarter of an hour was frustrating for the visitors as they missed a kick to the corner for an attacking line out and a chance to equalise from a penalty. But on the half hour Matt Whitaker pounced on a loose ball and it was transferred wide for Andy Matthews to score. Steve Munford added the extras for a 7-3 lead. Sutton & Epsom were enjoying their best phase of play as they recycled the ball quickly and within five minutes a second try was their reward. Great support play by the forwards had Dorking back-pedalling and Jamie See made the crucial break to create the overlap and Andy Matthews obliged with his second try.
The Brockham club stormed back and the men from Rugby Lane were under pressure. A turnover 5 metres out and an interception called back by the referee indicated that the former National 2 side were eager to close the gap before the interval. In the end it was a quick tap penalty that was S&E’s undoing. Poor concentration resulted in the opportunity and the visitors were punished for their negligence. Matt Noble converted the try and the sides turned around with Sutton 12-10 to the good.
With the breeze and slope in their favour and the astute kicking of Matt Noble the slender lead would not be easy for the Black & Whites to convert into victory. If the first half had been typical derby stuff the second period was thrilling rugby as both sides attacked with flair via their backs. Oliver Edwards on the flank for the home team was at the heart of things carrying prodigiously. But Sutton extended their lead with a Steve Munford penalty early in the second half. However, Dorking began to exert authority through their forwards. Having declined a very kickable penalty they powered over for a try. Matt Noble converted to regain the lead with the score at 17-15 with half an hour to go. Sutton & Epsom came storming back and despite butchering an overlap did not panic. The forwards recycled the ball and eventually it went wide for Andy Matthews to complete his hat-trick. The Black & Whites were ahead once more 20-17.
The game entered its best phase with end-to-end running rugby with chances for both teams. Edward Carne, the Dorking full back, ran the ball back to great effect as the hosts threatened to gain the upper hand. As the fixture entered the last quarter it looked like the decisive moment would be a yellow card to James Faaatuatu for not releasing. Reduced to 14 with the talismanic centre off the paddock S&E would surely be severely tested. Matt Noble equalised with a penalty but that was as good as it got for the hosts. In fact, with the numerical disadvantage Sutton enjoyed their best period of the half. It was the 14 men who looked more like scoring, a testament to the character of the side. With numerical parity restored the game reached added time. The Rugby Lane supporters held their breath as Steve Munford had a kick for the lead. The roar of approval was evidence of the sizable travelling support. 23-20 with a minute to go. A charged down clearance kick and desperate defence resulted in a Dorking penalty. It would be the last kick of the game. It soared over the top of the post and though one touch judge believed it to have been successful it was correctly adjudicated as a miss. The Dorking announcer added to the confusion as spectators wondered what was going on as the final whistle blew with muted celebrations.
Following the magnificent win against Shelford the Black & Whites maintained their improvement with this splendid victory. Andy Matthews with his hat-trick earns the kudos but this was far from a one-man show – it was a superb team effort by the squad. To come to the Big Field and return with a league victory would have been unthinkable two seasons ago such has been the progress of the Black & Whites in recent times. The league campaign takes a break next weekend and resumes at Rugby Lane on Saturday 4th March as Sutton & Epsom host Hertford with a 3pm kick off.
Sutton & Epsom: 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, George London, Matt Whitaker. Replacements: Craig Bellringer, Nick Gardner & Frankie Murray.