Match report - Friday 22nd Jan 2016
By Ken Sims
Sutton Coldfield 18 pts v Newport RFC 36 pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
Match report - Friday 22nd Jan 2016
Sutton Coldfield 18 pts v Newport RFC 36 pts
National League 3 Midlands.
Last Friday evening Sutton 1st XV played their first competitive league fixture under the excellent new floodlights at their Roger Smoldon Ground, Walmley Road but unfortunately whilst the new pitch and floodlights were winners the team was not, as their troubled season suffered another setback with a 36-18 defeat at the hands of Newport RFC.
Sutton started the game well taking a 5-0 lead after 8 minutes of play but fluctuating fortunes for both teams during this must win bottom of the table clash led to a very close and exciting contest and going into the final quarter only 3 points separated the teams with Sutton trailing by just 18-21 but as Sutton pushed for a decisive score a disastrous final period of play saw the home side concede 15 points in the final 13 minutes together with a yellow card, to suffer what could be a near fatal blow at this critical stage in the season.
In a very tight contest at the bottom of the National 3 league table, at the start of the game Newport were 13th, one place above Sutton at the bottom of the 14 team table but the bonus point win has lifted Newport out of the relegation zone into 9th place leaving Sutton rooted to bottom of the table, 12 points from safety with 10 games to play but with a game in hand over the two teams immediately above them.
The Friday night game was well supported and the atmosphere under the new floodlight system was full of excitement and anticipation at kick off. The pitch and overhead conditions were excellent as Sutton got the game underway with a deep penetrating kick, which took play into the Newport 22... and there was nearly a dramatic start to the game as Sutton chased the kick, hard running second row Lewis Snowden was up quickly to charge down the attempted clearance kick by Newport but unfortunately as the ball bounced back over the try line the pursuing Sutton players were narrowly beaten to the touchdown by the Newport defenders to deny Sutton an early score, unlike a similar situation in the previous home game against Lichfield when the ball bounced more kindly for the attacking side.
Newport were able to clear the danger with a 22 metre drop out and that launched a Newport offensive in the Sutton half but during a period of sustained pressure Sutton held firm before mounting a counterattack from their own half led by livewire fullback Nathan Burchell, who raced into the Newport 22 causing panic in the visitors defence before he was brought to ground. However, Sutton retained possession with quick support and the ball was fed from midfield in front of the posts to the right where outside centre Jonny Raistrick was able to celebrate his return to first team action after a long absence due to injury and the fast moving centre made no mistake as he drove over for the opening try on the new pitch.
Unfortunately the conversion drifted wide but Sutton had taken a deserved 5-0 lead 8 minutes into the game and the home side had made a good start to the match against a decent team, who like Sutton were intent on improving their lowly league position and following the restart the visitors set about this task with purpose winning a penalty, which they kicked deep into the Sutton 22 for a lineout on their right wing, in the Sutton 22. Newport won the lineout and trundled towards the Sutton try line but the drive was held up over the line and a 5 metre attacking scrum was awarded to Newport. Again the Sutton pack stopped the visitors drive but no8 Kirk Robinson picked up from the base of the scrum and drove over for a try in the corner to level the scores at 5-5 after 13 minutes of play.
Fullback Liam Holder missed the difficult conversion but 5 minutes later he was spot on with a 35 metre penalty in midfield to give Newport an 8-5 lead midway through the first half, however Sutton's fly half Alex White levelled the scores at 8-8, 12 minutes before the break with a similar 35 metre penalty, when Newport were penalised for not retiring the requisite 10 metres after an infringement.
Unfortunately, just 2 minutes later after working hard to level the scores Sutton were caught out at the restart and a simple knock on in their 22 handed a scrum to Newport on the right side of the field. Newport initially drove the scrum but quickly spun the ball across the field from right to left infront of the Sutton posts to put outside centre Henry Vaka in for a try on the overlap in the left corner giving Newport a 13-8 advantage 10 minutes before the break.
Sutton responded well to falling behind and positive play led to a second penalty for Alex White when Newport were caught offside in front of the posts to bring the score back to 11-13 with 37 minutes played... but again the restart proved to be a problem and a knock on in the corner led to a scrum at which Sutton were penalised and yellow carded for causing the scrum to collapse. Not surprisingly Newport opted for a 5 metre scrum against the 7 man Sutton pack and they were rewarded when no8 Kirk Robinson claimed his second try to extend the visitors lead to 18-11. The difficult conversion, which drifted wide was the last act of an entertaining first half.
Trailing 11-18 Sutton set about the second half with a sense of purpose but they were unable to take advantage when 5 minutes into the second half Newport lost their outside centre to the sin bin for 10 minutes, penalised for a swinging arm tackle, which stopped a promising attack by the Sutton backs in their tracks and although Sutton mounted further promising attacks during this period they were unable to capitalise on the chances they created with overlaps missed and possession kicked away.
During this early passage of play in the second half, frustratingly it was Newport who moved the score on with a penalty by fullback Liam Holder to extend the visitors lead to 21-11 with 12 minutes of the second half played but showing their fighting spirit Sutton fought back and 15 minutes into second half excellent play by Sutton drove the ball down the right touch line before switching play to the left and into the hands of outside centre Jonny Raistrick, who raced in to score to the left of the posts for his second try of the day, marking his return to the team with a brace of tries. Fly half Alex White added the conversion to close to 18-21 with 25 minutes left to play.
With the game within their reach Sutton stepped up their game and went in search of the illusive score, which would secure a much needed win and ease their relegation fears but although they came close the ball would not run for them and 13 minutes from time the pendulum swung back in Newport's favour. First with another penalty for Liam Holder to take the score to 24-18 and then scrum half Ashley Paterson ran in a try by the posts, which was converted by fullback Liam Holder to stretch the lead to 31-18 with 8 minutes to play before the fullback found space on the left wing to race clear, outpacing the Sutton defenders in a 40 metre dash into the left hand corner for the final score of the day and a 36-18 score line, with 2 minutes left to play.
On the plus side Sutton were boosted by a try scoring return for centre Jonny Raistrick after a long injury layoff and Mark Rayner returned for a cameo performance at scrumhalf following his semi-retirement at the end of last season plus after his successful 60 minute test appearance playing for the Sutton Development side the previous weekend, Sean Harrison returned to action for the 1st XV as he entered the fray from the bench to take his place in the front row having missed the whole of 2015 with a neck injury.
Sutton now have 10 games left to save their season, starting at Nuneaton RFC this weekend and the results in these games will determine whether the Sutton fightback continues in National League 3 level 5 or starts again next season in Midlands 1 at level 6, either way the club will return to the glory days of recent seasons.
Other team results:
Under the leadership and guidance of coach Joe Gavin the Sutton Development side continue to enjoy a successful season holding a strong position in the Second Team league and as previously reported they have won through to a fourth consecutive Warwickshire 2nd Team Cup final, which they will play on Sunday 7th Feb 2016 at Leamington RFC. KO 2.15