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Sutton Show Enterprise in Defeat

Sutton Coldfield 26 v 45 Old Halesonians

Last Updated: Feb 18, 2016 10:44pm
Sutton New Hall, Birmingham
By David Daniels
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National League 3 Midlands  

Sutton's slender hopes of survival in the National League's receded still further last weekend with an honourable 45-26 defeat to third place Old Halesonians. Over recent seasons the games between the two clubs, representing South Birmingham and North Birmingham respectively, have been close fought affairs which have gone down to the wire with the result hinging on the last play or kick of the game... but sadly not so in this latest encounter, which reflected the fortunes of the two sides this season. 
With the Sutton clubs highly regarded sponsors and supporters looking on Sutton made an excellent start to the game on a very good playing surface considering the recent rain, as they followed up a well placed kick off and enthusiastically drove the ball over the Old Hales try line in the opening minutes but they were denied an early score as the ball was adjudged to have been knocked on over the line and the visitors were able to clear the danger with a 22 metre drop out. 
However, Sutton were still camped in the Old Halesonians half and for the first 15 minutes it was the home side applying all the pressure but unfortunately a penalty conceded in the build up to another promising position allowed Old Hales to clear their lines and then an excellent attack down the right wing by Sutton was thwarted when a chip ahead by centre Alex White instead of bouncing kindly into his hands over the try line bounced back over the tall centres head into the hands of a relieved Old Hales defender to deny Sutton once again, proving when the luck is not with you everything seems to be against you!  
Having narrowly survived the early pressure the relieved visitors turned the tables and drove play back into the Sutton half, creating a driving maul in midfield, which was stopped by the Sutton pack but the Old Hales back line quickly swung the ball to the left wing where fullback Andy Holloway took the ball over the line for a well worked try and fly half Oli Rayner added the challenging conversion to give the visitors a 7-0 lead after 15 minutes but against the run of play. 
Still competing well Sutton replied with a penalty by centre Alex White to close to 7-3 but a collapsed scrum in midfield was attributed to the Sutton front row and Old Hales kicked the resulting penalty into the right corner for a lineout just metres from the Sutton try line. Old Hales won the ball and drove for the line with 2nd row Loz Breese going over for the try and again Oli Rayner added the extra points with excellent conversion from wide out to extend the lead to 14-3 with 25 minutes played. 
5 minutes before the break Alex White brought Sutton back to 14-6 with his second penalty but just minutes later left wing Joe Oxford raced into left corner for a well executed try, which had started with play under the posts but quick hands by Old Hales put the winger in for his try and to add to Sutton's task Oli Rayner slotted home the touchline conversion for a 21-6 score line but Sutton came back strongly winning a penalty, which was kicked into the corner and taking the ball on from a catch and drive substitute forward Dean Harper on in the second row for the injured Josh Bailey, made his mark with a well taken try on the stroke of half time. Unfortunately the attempted conversion came back off the post and Sutton had to settle for the single score but their confidence was high and they started the second half with real belief. 
Trailing 11-21 Sutton started the second half with a passage of really positive play led by centre Tom Harris, who made an outstanding break taking play deep into the Old Halesonian's 22, where the forwards took over and recently restored prop Sean Harrison drove over the try line for an excellent try to bring the scores 21-16 just 5 minutes after the break. Unfortunately such is Sutton's season the attempted conversion again rebounded off the post and Sutton were left to reflect on the fact that only inches prevented the ball going between the posts on two occasions and had this been the case they would have trailed by only a single point. 
Unfortunately Sutton's encouragement only lasted for 2 minutes when Old Hales bounced straight back following the restart creating and overlap on the left wing for winger Joe Oxford to claim his second try of the day and fly halh Rayner was spot on target once again with an excellent conversion to restore the Old Hales lead to 28-16. 
Frustrated but not disheartened Sutton returned to the fray and they battled bravely against their high flying opponents, who were growing in confidence and midway through the second half the visitors extended their lead to 35-16, when they drove a 5 metre scrum towards the Sutton try line before no8 Steve Leach broke off short of the line to dive over in the corner. The reliable Oli Rayner completed a remarkable kicking display with his 5th conversion before Andy Robinson exploited an overlap on the left wing to extend the Old Hales lead to 40-16 with 18 minutes left to play. Surprisingly, Oli Rayner missed the conversion but the fly half had already done enough to have won the kicking dual and he was also unsuccessful with the attempted conversion of the seventh and final try scored by Old Hales after a surging attack up the right wing was swung left for a try in the far corner to bring the score to 45-16 with 10 minutes left to play. 
In the final 10 minutes Sutton showed their true spirit and strength of character as they battled on in a lost cause as they raised their game to create successive scores for all action no8 Jack Woodcock, who capped an outstanding performance with a well deserved brace of tries. The first came 5 minutes before the end of the game with a score in the right corner and the second came on the stroke of fulltime to secure a consolation try scoring bonus point for the beleaguered Sutton side. 
The game proved to be a highly entertaining sporting contest between old and respected rivals held in front of Sutton's much needed and appreciated sponsors who had enjoyed the annual Sponsors Day lunch and hospitality before the match. 
On the field recognition goes to the much valued Dean Harper, who stepped in to fill a place on the bench and then served the team well in the second row to replace the injured Josh Baily, who suffered an ankle injury early in the game before the talented and versatile forward moved into the front row to replace Chris Hanley at prop. Also the half back pairing of 19 year old Ollie Green and 21 year old Ben Morgan, both playing a full 80 minutes is worthy a mention as what must be the youngest half back partnership in the National Leagues. 
This weekend Sutton travel to Old Northamptonians for another bottom of the table battle but Sutton can travel with confidence having produced some excellent passages of play in their latest outing, missing only the composure they need to finish the chances they create and improve their first up tackles to stop counterattacks before they start. KO 2.15

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