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A Sorry Saturday for Sutton 1st XV

Longton 38 - 3 Sutton Coldfield

Last Updated: Feb 11, 2016 10:25pm
Sutton New Hall, Birmingham
By David Daniels
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On a wind swept hill above the Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Tent and in cold driving rain, which added to the misery for Sutton's loyal band of travelling support and the team, who also had to endure a heavy pitch, Sutton slumped to their 15th defeat out of 18 games with 8 games remaining in a difficult National League 3 season. As they continue the challenge of rebuilding their once all conquering side from the outstanding talent that is rising through the club ranks the club is in good shape and in spite of the recent failures the future still looks bright for Sutton's premier rugby club, who will bounce back in the coming seasons once the current squad of new and young players have gained more experience and jelled as a team under the new coaching set-up. 
 
This new era follows on from the Club's previous success in recent seasons when Sutton won 2 successive Warwickshire Cup Finals, 2010 and 2011 plus promotion to Level 5, National League 3 in 2012, which included a run of 35 league victories all under the leadership of Head Coach Matt Nevitt, who has now stepped down from the coaching role but has no plans to leave the club at present.  
 
In this crucial postponed fixture, although Sutton put together a positive display and produced some impressive passages of play, their every mistake was punished by an energised Longton side, who were also fighting for survival placed 11th in the league at the start of the game, just above the relegation zone but the home side played the conditions better than the visitors and they extended a 14-3 halftime lead to a 38-3 victory as Sutton succumbed to the conditions and the growing pressure, typically gifting Longton an interception try under the posts on the final whistle, as they ran the ball across their 22 resulting in a final score line of 38-3, which does not reflect Sutton's effort and contribution in a classic bottom of the table battle in very difficult playing conditions.
 
Once again due to availability and injury Sutton had to travel with a much changed team effecting both the forwards and the backs with prop Chris Hanley making his first appearance since injury forced him out in October 2015 and fellow prop Sean Harrison was starting only his second game of the season after a 12 month absence having missed every game in 2015. Tony Worthington made a welcome return to the second row having retired at the end of the 2012/13 season but the Sutton stalwart from the golden years responded to Sutton's SOS and back row player Matt Black made a welcome return and a first appearance of the season to contribute to an outstanding performance by the new look Sutton back row. Playing at 6 alongside Rhoss Price at open side (7) and the combative Jack Woodcock at no8 the Sutton back row gave a master class of driving, go forward rugby in heavy conditions.
 
The back division also saw changes with Ollie Chitnis taking over from the absent Nathan Burchell and 23 year old winger Martin Browning made an excellent first appearance of the season producing some dynamic runs matched only by the back row and Rob Watts who operated with great effect on the opposite wing. Fly half Ben Morgan was injured late in the first half and Sutton's young scrum half Ollie Green came on off the bench, to fill in on the wing in a hastily rearranged backline, ahead of his first appearance for Warwickshire's U20's team against Oxford on Sunday 7th Feb. 
 
However, once again in spite of good individual performances by many of the players, the constant enforced changes to the team week on week means that collectively the team struggles to operate as an effective unit plus too many penalties and handling errors, turnovers etc. continue to blight the Sutton game.
 
Sutton started well enough putting Longton under early pressure and a deliberate knock on in midfield by Longton stopped a promising attack by Sutton developing but it gave centre Alex White a chance to give Sutton an early 3-0 lead after 10 minutes of play with a well judged 35 metre penalty.
 
Unfortunately shortly after the restart Sutton surrendered their hard won advantage when they appeared to be caught out by Longton left wing Jack Newton Tayler, on loan from Leicester Tigers, who fielded a Sutton kick ahead in his own half then showed his worth with a scintillating 60 meter run up the touchline evading would be tacklers to score under the posts. Fullback Grant Hallam added the simple conversion to give Longton a 7-0 lead after 13 minutes of play. The success of the young winger gave confidence to the other Longton runners and the Sutton defence was tested over the next 20 minute period but the Sutton defenders held firm until sustained pressure in their 22 led to a yellow card for the under pressure visitors. However, although depleted Sutton continued to hold strong and against the odds they came away with the ball but unfortunately a knock-on in front of their posts handed the ball back to Longton and from the ensuing 5 metre scrum the powerful Longton pack, who had been subdued for much of the game claimed a pushover try, which Grant Hallam converted on the stroke of half time to give the home side a 14-3 lead at the break.
 
Unfortunately for Sutton, with the advantage of a strong wind and local knowledge of the slope, Longton dominated the second half with good use of the wind and strong running they scored 4 more tries and 2 conversions in the deteriorating conditions, which made it necessary for the floodlights to be brought on at halftime. 10 minutes into the second period fullback Grant Hall ran in a try on the left wing, which although he failed to convert his own try from a difficult angle he had extended the deficit to 19-3.
 
Undeterred Sutton courageously continued to do battle and when they had possession, the Sutton back row plus the battling wingers took it in turn to make strong attacking runs up field taking on the Longton defence and gaining valuable ground but unfortunately all to often possession was lost in the Longton half either by losing the ball on a turnover or conceding a penalty at the breakdown, which returned the ball deep into Sutton territory putting them on the back foot and back under pressure in their own 22.
 
With 15 minutes left to play Sutton were again under pressure in their 22 with the Longton pack driving for the line, when flanker Joe Clowes broke off to score in the right corner and then to add insult to injury fullback Grant Hallam defied the extreme weather conditions with a perfectly placed touchline conversion extending the lead to 26-3. Just 2 minutes later, following the restart Longton took play back into the Sutton 22 setting up a driving maul, which secured another try for the rampant pack and although the try went unconverted the score moved onto 31-3.
 
In the closing minutes, to their credit Sutton still tried to impose themselves on the game but such is their misfortune this season their last action of the game was to gift Longton an interception try with a loose pass in front of their posts. The try was scored by substitute Sam Longstaff and converted by Grant Hallam for a fine score line of 38-3.
 
Sutton return home to familiar territory and hopefully better weather this weekend as they play host to visitors Old Halesonians, who currently sit 3rd in the league. KO 2.15pm.
 
Sutton other team results:   
 
Warwickshire 2nd Team Cup Final - Sun 7th Feb 2016
 
Sutton Development Side 11 pts v Nuneaton 2nd XV 43 pts
 
After the depressing National 3 league result for the Sutton 1st XV on the previous day, unfortunately, in spite of a valiant effort the highly rated Sutton Development side failed to put a smile back on the faces of the Sutton supporters the next day, as the Sutton club suffered further disappointment on Sunday 7th Feb 2016, when the Development side failed to retain the Warwickshire 2nd XV Cup in the Cup Final held at Leamington RFC. Leading 11-7 at the break unfortunately the talented Sutton side failed to keep in touch with a strong Nuneaton team in a torrid weather affected second half and they had to hand over the trophy they have held for the past three years to the jubilant Nuneaton side after a 43-11 defeat.
 
Sutton made a good start to the game and held a deserved 11-7 lead going into the break but in difficult conditions they failed to contain a rampant Nuneaton side, who used the extreme and deteriorating weather systems to good effect during the second period to pin Sutton in their own half, scoring a further 6 tries and 3 conversions to deny Sutton a fourth successive championship.
 
Nuns kicked off on a water logged and very heavy pitch with only a slight breeze affecting the overhead conditions but this breeze grew stronger as the game progressed and around halftime the rainfall increased making the playing (and watching) conditions more and more unpleasant and it was Nuneaton who coped with the conditions best as Sutton struggled to find their normal fluency and control.
 
After the opening exchanges Sutton withstood the early pressure coming from Nuneaton and then turned the tables to win a penalty in midfield for fullback Danny Bancroft to land a perfectly judged 35 metre strike for a 3-0 lead after 6 minutes of play.
 
However, Nuneaton responded well and following the restart they renewed their pressure on the Sutton try line with successive scrums leading to a try for flanker Lewis Wilson 16 minutes into the game. The try was converted by winger Lewis Rigby, enabling Nuns to pull ahead 7-3 and then another penalty attempt by Danny Bancroft frustratingly rebounded off the post midway through the first half but as Sutton stepped up their game with 6 minutes to play to the break the fullback was spot on with his third penalty attempt and from 35 metres he brought Sutton to within a point at 7-6 before on the stroke of half time skipper and no8 Dean Harper scored a captain's try as he drove over from close range to take Sutton into the break with an 11-7 lead.
 
Although Sutton started the second half in the lead Nuneaton made the better start to final period when Hugh Thomas made a dramatic 60 metre dash up the right wing before offloading to the supporting Brad Marshall, who crossed for an impressive try to give Nuneaton a narrow lead at 12-11 just 5 minutes after the restart. 10 minutes later Nuns extended their lead to 17-11 with a try for Charlie Knight on the left wing after attacking play up the right wing was held up short of the try line by Sutton but Nuneaton won the resulting scrum and quickly switched play from right to left to score on the overlap and then midway through the second half Nuneaton scored a pushover try to stretch the lead to 22-11.
 
With 20 minutes left to play Sutton tried to step up their game but at this stage Nuneaton held the initiative and the final period of play belonged to them as they ran in three more converted tries on 32 minutes, 36 minutes and 38 minutes. The first of the trio of tries fell to Nuneaton when Sutton were unable to control a hack on through their defensive line in their 22 and Nuns ran through to claim the score. The second followed a break up the right wing, with play cutting back inside to score by the posts and then finally a perfectly executed cross kick from the left wing was caught cleanly and grounded to the right of the posts.
 
Whilst disappointed at losing their trophy the Sutton Development side still hold a strong position in the Second Team league and they have plenty to play for in the remaining games.   

PHOTO: FILE PIC

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