Losing Bonus Point Lifts Sutton

Stratford Upon Avon 14 - 13 Sutton Coldfield

Last Updated: Feb 16, 2017 10:00pm
Sutton New Hall, Birmingham
By David Daniels
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Stratford upon Avon 14 pts v Sutton Coldfield RFC 13 pts

Midlands 1 West.


Sutton 1st XV and their loyal supporters are enjoying a very good start to the second half of the 26 match season and the results are now reflecting the good performances put in by the rejuvenated team, having won 4 out of their first 5 return round of fixtures, losing only to league leaders Newport, putting them up to 8th place before last Saturday's game against 5th placed Stratford. 

Unfortunately in a low scoring, close fought contest Sutton just failed to make it 5 wins out of 6, losing by a single point in a 14-13 defeat after dominating the final quarter of a compelling contest. However, the narrow defeat earned Sutton a losing bonus point, which was enough to take them up to 7th place in a league of 14 teams, one point above Wolverhampton in a very tight mid-table battle. 

After the overnight snow in Sutton, Stratford had faired better and the home team kicked off in dry, still conditions on a soft but firm pitch with plenty of grass and a good footing. 

In the opening 5 minutes the game ebbed and flowed showing the sides were evenly matched but Stratford eased into the lead when Sutton were penalised for not releasing at a breakdown in mid-field and fly half Jack Young kicked the penalty from 35 metres to give the home side an early 3-0 lead. 

Sutton responded well and held their ground against the strong Stratford scrum launching their own attacks, gaining ground in a great team performance, through notably fullback Max Graven and winger Miles Gregory in the backs plus skipper Jack Woodcock, George Ord and Dean Harper in the forwards, all ably supported by their teammates in the backs and forwards respectively. 

On 15 minutes the sustained Sutton pressure led to a penalty chance after a Stratford high tackle in mid-field stopped a promising attack and Sutton's player/coach Alex White, playing at centre, landed the penalty to level the score at 3-3, with 25 minutes to play to the break. 

With the Sutton lineout working well under the stewardship of hooker Conor Thorneycroft, Sutton kicked a penalty down the right touchline and the Sutton pack drove for the try line after again winning good lineout ball to set up the driving maul. The drive for the try line was stopped illegally by Stratford just short of the try line and playing 'advantage' Sutton fly half Ben Morgan deftly chipped the ball over the opposition for centre Alex White to rush past the defenders before twisting to ground the ball over the try line. 

Alex White converted his own well worked try to take Sutton into a 10-3 lead midway through the first half but within three minutes Stratford were awarded a second penalty when Sutton were caught offside in front of their posts and Jack Young reduced the arrears to 6-10. With the wind picking up Sutton stepped up their game and were unfortunate not to increase their lead when an ambitious 45 metre penalty dipped just under bar but a good half for Sutton ended at the break with Sutton holding a 4 point lead. 

After a good first half for Sutton the second half started badly with a dramatic score against the visitors in the opening 2 minutes when straight from the restart kick Stratford gained possession and raced in for a sensational score. Stratford received the restart on their left wing but immediately play was swung right into mid-field for centre Andy Conway to take the ball on the 10 metre line and then at pace the centre raced across in front of the Sutton defenders and powered down the right wing evading a desperate late tackle to score in the corner for an outstanding solo effort. 

The difficult touchline conversion was missed but the home side had regained the lead at 11-10 very much against the run of play and Sutton had to regain control quickly as they sought to overcome the one point deficit. However, during the next period of play try as they may Sutton were not able to translate pressure into points, as their efforts were frustrated by simple handling errors and miss placed kicks, which worked against them during the tenacious first quarter of the second half as they tried to step up their game and wrest back the lead. 

Midway through the second half Sutton's efforts were rewarded when Sutton were awarded a penalty for a Stratford infringement at a breakdown in mid-field and the scorer of all Sutton's points Alex White kicked the penalty to restore the Sutton lead at 13-11 but unfortunately just 2 minutes after the restart Stratford regained the lead, when Sutton were penalised for not releasing in their 22 and replacement kicker Nathan Geekie landed the penalty to restore the 1 point lead in favour of the home side. 

Once again the strong Sutton bench made a major contribution to the overall team performance, with prop Zac Loffman making a big impact as replacement for the mighty Sean Harrison, who had to retire from the fray with a serious [censored] to his forehead that needed hospital treatment, then player/coach Alan Keylock entered to fray as hooker to replace Conor Thorneycroft, who had a great game at the lineout and in the open and finally Laurie Harries came on at fullback to replace Max Craven, who injured his neck in a heavy tackle. 

In the closing 18 minutes Sutton stepped up their game and with time running out the visitors applied all the pressure in the Stratford half but for a variety of reasons, including good defence by Stratford and missed chances by Sutton, the game ended with Sutton on the attack but frustratingly unable to secure the winning score. 

At least the losing bonus point lifted Sutton up to 7th in the league and a win this weekend in their 20th game of the league campaign, against Worcester Wanderers, who currently sit in 11th place, should continue their excellent progress in the second half of the season. KO 2.15pm



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