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Sutton Surrender Half Time Lead

Lichfield 1st XV 38 - 22 Sutton Coldfield 1st XV

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2015 06:33pm
Sutton New Hall, Birmingham
By David Daniels
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National League 3 Midlands


Last weekend Sutton suffered another disappointing defeat but most disturbing was the fact that in a disrupted second half Sutton surrendered a 22-7 halftime lead to lose 38-22 after conceding three tries in the final 15 minutes of a close fought and highly entertaining contest to produce a final score line that flattered the home side. Two of the tries were scored and converted in the last 5 minutes by old rivals and near neighbours Lichfield, to level the honours with a home win each during the course of the season after Lichfield achieved promotion last year to join Sutton in the National Leagues and renew the longstanding rivalry between the two clubs.
Sutton kicked off on an excellent day for running rugby with a firm ground underfoot, a slight breeze and occasional spring sunshine breaking through the overcast conditions, all boding well for the game that followed and the large crowd were not disappointed.
Following the kick off Sutton made the early running, applying pressure in the left corner of the Lichfield 22 with a series of dominant scrums and driving mauls that threatened the home try line but then the ball was spun out wide into midfield where fullback Nathan Burchell made the initial surge before passing to outside centre Jonny Raistrick, who rounded the defenders to complete an excellent score to the right of the posts.
Unfortunately the attempted conversion drifted wide across the face of the posts but Sutton had made a decisive start and they led 5-0 after 10 minutes of play. However, the fired up home side encouraged by a vocal home crowd struck back quickly with a converted try following an attacking scrum 5 metres out by the Sutton posts and scrum half Jonny Evans picked up to drive over from close range. Fly half Luke Massey added the conversion to give Lichfield a 7-5 lead after 14 minutes of play.
The score spurred Sutton on and sustained pressure plus good play led to a second try for the visitors midway through the first half. Sutton won the ball in the centre circle and a powerful run by mobile prop Liam Hills took play deep into the Lichfield half before a perfect pass sent ace finisher Nathan Burchell racing in under the posts. Fly half Josh Rolls added the simple conversion allowing Sutton to retake the lead at 12-7 and then Rolls added a penalty for good measure extending Sutton's lead to 15-7 with 10 minutes to play to the break.
The final 10 minutes of the first half saw a flurry of activity and mixed fortunes for Sutton who suffered a yellow card minutes before the break for not releasing the player after a tackle in midfield and then on the stroke of halftime centre Andy Tovey juggled with an interception on the halfway line... and then with the ball under control he outpaced the Lichfield flyers to score under the posts and Rolls duly added the conversion to give Sutton a handsome 22-7 lead going into the second half.
Unfortunately Sutton suffered a disastrous start to the second half when they received a second yellow card having been harshly judged to have not retreated 10 metres, when a Lichfield player took a quick tap and ran into the Sutton player following a penalty awarded in front of the Sutton posts. Reduced to 13 men Sutton were unable to defend the scrum that followed and no8 Rich Burton charged over from close range to score a captains try, which was converted by Massey to bring Lichfield back into the game at 14-22 just 5 minutes into the second period.
Then with depleted Sutton on the defensive left wing Harvey Wootton took full advantage with a weaving run into the left corner to close to 19-22 with 10 minutes of the second half played.
The next period of play saw end to end rugby played at high pace and with the scrum advantage levelling out the next score was to prove vital and on 25 minutes it fell to the home side when Lichfield won turnover ball in their own half and catching Sutton out of position they were able to race up field putting outside centre Rich Fielding in for a try wide out on the right wing. The conversion drifted wide but the home side regained a narrow 24-22 lead to set up a thrilling finale to an exacting contest, which concluded with consecutive converted tries for Lichfield.
On 35 minutes Lichfield worked the ball up the left wing and then swung play right across the face of the posts for centre Paul Maxwell-Keys to score on the overlap and then on the stroke of fulltime an audacious run by second row Joe Thompson left Sutton stunned as the burly player gathered the ball on the halfway line and then proceeded to run up the right wing before cutting infield to score an outstanding try by the posts, which he could only have dreamed off before the game! Luke Massey added both conversions to seal Sutton's fate at 38-22 and the City team sent the team from the Royal Town home to think again!!
Sutton now have 3 games remaining, starting this weekend with the visit of league leaders South Leicester to the RSG, Walmley Rd. KO 3pm... before they break for the summer and seize the chance to regroup and work on the problems which have beset them this season, preparing for a return to winning ways at the start of next season, which is well within their compass.

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