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Sutton's Relegation Almost Sealed

Old Northamptonians 24 - 10 Sutton Coldfield

Last Updated: Feb 22, 2016 08:14pm
Sutton New Hall, Birmingham
By David Daniels
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Old Northamptonians 24 pts v Sutton Coldfield 10 pts
 
National League 3 Midlands
 
A spirited but losing 50/50 mixed performance by Sutton 1st XV against fellow strugglers Old Northamptonians last weekend, has just about sealed Sutton's relegation fate at the end of the season and in the remaining 6 National 3 league games Sutton will be playing for their pride rather survival but also a strong finish to this season should herald a good start to life back in Midlands 1 next season. 
The 24-10 defeat illustrated the best and worst of Sutton's play during a troubled season, when a passage of excellent play was inevitably torpedoed by simple errors and basic mistakes, which led to penalties or turnovers costing Sutton possession and territory, alongside strong last ditch defence coupled with poor first up tackles allowing the opposing runners to gather momentum when setting up counterattacks. In truth bad luck has also played a part with Sutton not getting the bounce of the ball when kicked from hand in good attacking positions with the ball consistently bouncing away from Sutton in favour of the opposition and kicks from dead ball situations have also proved to be frustrating. In the last two games well struck conversions and penalty attempts have struck the posts and bounced back into play, costing valuable points and underlining the frustrations faced by the Sutton players and supporters. 
With newly promoted Old Northamptonians sitting just one place above Sutton but 10 points ahead of Sutton in the league table, this game was crucial to the survival hopes of both clubs and on the day it was the home side who played the conditions better than the visitors in the critical final forty minute period.  
Playing up the slope on a wide pitch with a strong gusting cross wind, Sutton had a good first half holding their hosts to a 12-10 lead and as they turned round at halftime with the conditions now in their favour it was generally believed that Sutton were in a strong position to overturn the small deficit and secure a much needed victory...however, the second half did not play out according to the Sutton plan, when a promising Sutton attack took play deep into the Old Northamptonians 22. As the attack went to ground on the Northampton left wing the hosts reacted quickest stealing the ball and racing up the left wing on a 60 metre dash into the Sutton 22, where the runner found close support and the ball was transferred in field to score by the posts for a simple conversion and a 19-10 lead to stun Sutton with only 5 minutes of the second half played. In spite of a spirited effort Sutton's game fell apart from that point. 
In the first half the hosts kicked off down the slope with the pitch in good condition considering the recent rains and Sutton were first to show their running credentials when left wing Nathan Burchell raced up his wing outpacing all including his support and with the cover defence closing in the winger chipped ahead inside the 22 but once again the ball bounced away from the Sutton man just short of the try line and the defenders were able clear the threat. However, Sutton were in the ascendancy and a lineout on the Northampton 10 metre line was taken cleanly and a well organised maul drove play up the Sutton right wing, deep into Northampton territory. 
As the rolling maul stalled, the ball was delivered to the backs and an initial break in midfield was taken on by fullback Tom McNamee, who raced in from 30 metres for an excellent try to the left of the posts. The try was converted by centre Alex White to give Sutton an encouraging 7-0 lead after 10 minutes of play. 
However, Sutton's luck started to change when an attempted penalty kick to extend the Sutton lead on 15 minutes came back off the posts and then just minutes later Sutton conceded a penalty on their 22 and the quickly taken tap penalty caught Sutton by surprise. As Sutton were slow to respond, the ball was taken on at pace and a smart off load was carried over the try line by second row Tim Cardall. Fly half Alex Rose added the conversion to level the scores at 7-7 with 18 minutes played. 
Disappointed but up for the task Sutton rallied and 25 minutes into the first half the visitors won a penalty at a scrum in the Northampton 22 and Alex White avoided the posts to restore the Sutton lead to 10-7 but with halftime approaching Northampton struck back with a pushover try from a 5 metre scrum to the left of the posts, grounded by no8 Chris McKie. Fortunately for Sutton the conversion drifted wide on the wind but the hosts held a slender 12-10 lead going into the break. 
With their goal in sight and only a 2 point deficit, Sutton started the second half with a sense of purpose and high hopes, setting up a promising attack on their right wing, in the Northampton 22... but the ball was lost when play broke down short of the try line and Northampton set up a smart counter attack. With the Sutton players lined up for the assault on the Northampton try line they were all caught out of position and turning defence into attack Northampton raced 60 metres up their left wing before transferring the ball in field to the supporting Northant's players and centre Mike Bellamy went over for a surprise score, which was converted by fly half Alex Rose to extend Sutton's deficit to a 19-10, with 5 minutes of the second half played. 
Sutton tried to refocus their game plan but unfortunately their set plays were misfiring with lineout malfunctions, missing kicks for touch and basic errors creeping into their game and their spirited efforts went unrewarded as Northampton extended their lead still further with a try in the left corner following a penalty which was kicked to touch on the Sutton left wing. Northampton won the throw and drove play towards the Sutton try line. Sutton stopped the drive but not the score as Northampton swung the ball to their left across the Sutton 22 and fullback Rory Seymore raced into the left corner for a well worked conclusive score and a commanding 24-10 lead. 
Trailing by 14 points and with 25 minutes to play Sutton tried hard to rediscover their fluency and reduce the deficit but they were unable to bring their game together and as they forced the pace more errors crept into their game with chances created but not taken. With time running out Sutton showed spirit but lacked the composure to secure the scores they needed and they slipped to another defeat against a decent team but one they should have beaten. 
Over this season Sutton have tended to play their rugby in short intense bursts when individually and collectively they have performed well taking the game to the opposition and dominating play, proving what they are capable of but between these phases they have switched off and relaxed allowing their opponents back into the game. At this level in National 3, the opposing teams throughout the league have proved how quick they are to punish such unwise lapses but when the young/inexperienced Sutton side adapt their game to play at a high intensity for a full 80 minutes, they will return to the all conquering days of the recent past, starting this weekend. 
This weekend Sutton welcome Peterborough to the RSG, Walmley Road to prove that they believe in themselves and show that they can not only create but also take their chances and they have the skills, ability and fitness to beat the best in this league, with Peterborough [censored] 7th in the table and Sutton last but not least, with 20 of 26 games played this next game should be a keen contest as Sutton start their build up to next season. KO 2.15  
PHOTO: FILE PIC

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