Match report - 30th Sept 2017
Melbourne RFC 31 pts v Sutton Coldfield 12 pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
After their promising start to the new season with victory away at Camp Hill on the opening weekend, Sutton sat in 6th place in the competitive M1W league table. Unfortunately in the subsequent matches, whilst Sutton have played well for a large part of the games they have struggled to select a settled side week by week and successive loses have seen them slide down the table. Last weekend the club's troubled injury hit season suffered a further blow when a 31-12 defeat away to bottom club Melbourne RFC took Sutton to the bottom of the table after 5 games.
Notably, in spite of losing their last four matches, Sutton have indeed played well for much of the game and been in close contention going into the final period but unfortunately for all their good play Sutton have leaked points and lost the games due to occasional, brief lapses at crucial times during the contest. The occasional missed tackle, penalty or tactical error has handed the initiative back to the opposition and at this level the opponents have proved to be quite capable of punishing the errors by taking the game away from Sutton.
Last weekend saw Sutton make their first visit to newly promoted Melbourne RFC, tucked away in the countryside north of Ashby de la Zouch and the rise of the Melbourne rugby team over recent seasons is a credit to the players, the neighbourhood and the people behind the team...and although Sutton underperformed again, their hosts were worthy of their first win of the league season so far and Sutton were left to reflect on the key moments on which the game changed.
Sutton kicked off in the unfamiliar surroundings with slight rain falling and they raced forward to put the host club under immediate pressure in the opening exchanges. Just minutes into the game Sutton created an opening on the right wing but instead of going to hand for an easy stroll into the right corner the ball was knocked on from the intended pass and the chance was missed.
After the promising start by Sutton the home side turned the tables and brought play back to the halfway line where they won a clean lineout and fed the ball into midfield setting up a barnstorming run by their large no12, who took play deep into the Sutton 22 and an offload found left wing Tommy Howell cutting in to score under the posts. Fly half Ewan Holden added the simple conversion to give the home side a 7-0 lead after 5 minutes play.
Sutton's problems were compounded when they suffered a yellow card at the restart for tackling a Melbourne player in the air and from the penalty Mel's kicked into the Sutton half on their left wing. The ball was won and again carried on a charging run towards the Sutton posts but although Sutton tackled fiercely the ball was slipped to no6 Chris Stark, who scrambled over for the second Melbourne try, which was again converted by Ewan Holden to leave Sutton trailing 14-0 after 8 minutes of play.
To their credit Sutton responded well and although down to 14 men due to the yellow card, from the restart Sutton set up an outstanding attack from within their own half. The initial break was made by centre Mike Burns, who raced up the left wing before feeding infield to fullback Miles Gregory, who kept the play going forward keeping the ball alive crossing into the Melbourne 22 and taking play to the right, Sutton fly half Ben Morgan sent out a long pass to right wing Chris Duckworth, who crossed for an excellent try in the right corner. Ben Morgan added the touchline conversion to bring Sutton into the game at 14-7 with 10 minutes played.
Encouraged by the score and the manner of their play Sutton were right back in the game and although there was a necessary substitution in the backs with Nathan Burchell coming off the bench to replace fullback Miles Gregory, who was having breathing problems, the momentum of the team play was maintained and the newly installed fullback made his presence felt immediately with a searing counterattack up the left wing taking play to the edge of the Mel's 22. Sutton left wing Tom Burrows was in close support and as the fullback ran out of space the winger took the ball on and forced his way over the Mel's try line towards the left corner flag for an excellent try - his first for the club since his summer transfer and a great try it was.
Unfortunately, the difficult conversion attempt drifted wide but Sutton had drawn back to within 2 points at 14-12 with 5 minutes to go to the break and in the final minutes of the half Sutton had a penalty attempt to take the lead but the effort again drifted wide.
However, Sutton were in a strong position and hopes were high but it was not to be as 10 minutes into the second half Sutton conceded a penalty in their 22 and Holden added the 3 points to stretch the lead to 17-12, then Sutton were awarded a penalty in an attacking position but the penalty was reversed for 'aggressive behaviour' by Sutton and the chance was lost. To punish Sutton further Mel's kicked the reversed penalty down their right touchline for a lineout and scored from a catch and drive when hooker Dan Walker was driven over the Sutton try line towards the right corner. To rub salt in the wound Holden added the difficult conversion to stretch the lead to 24-12 with 15 minutes of the second half played.
Again Sutton tried to rally in the closing quarter and although they defended fiercely in the backs and forwards equally with the centres Mike Burns and Jack Wells defending magnificently against bigger opponents helped out by the back row of Anton Taylor, Rhoss Price and no8 and skipper George Ord, with a Melbourne victory in sight the home club kept up their onslaught and 15 minutes before the end of they game, they completed a good days work with a bonus point for a fourth try, scored by prop Gary Lakin, who trundled in from close range and Holden's conversion took the game away from the visitors, Brave Sutton battled to the end but unfortunately to no avail and the score remained 31-12 at the close.
Ironically, whilst Sutton are struggling to find their form and consistency the Melbourne Team Manager conceded that his team have never played so clinically all season. Being clinical and taking their chances is a lesson for Sutton.
Although suffering another loss Sutton can take some positives from the game with an excellent debut from 19 year old Jack Wells playing out of position in the centre rather than his preferred position of flanker but in spite of the change of position he made a positive contribution with some good tackling against big opponents and he showed confidence in making some fine runs with ball in hand. The game also saw another start for 21 year old Loughborough University student Zak Tyler and Sutton were pleased to welcome back Nathan Burchell, who had been contemplating retiring from the senior game to concentrate on his coaching role with Sutton Women's team but such are Sutton's injury problems he has been tempted back into the team and he will be a great influence on the younger payers in the squad - so welcome back Nathan.
This weekend Sutton take a break from league rugby as they take on Rugby Lions at Broadstreet in the semi-finals of the Warwickshire Cup. KO 3 pm.
The day is a double header with Nuneaton RFC taking on Newbold on Avon at the same venue. KO 1 pm.
Sutton return to league rugby with a home fixture against Mosley Oak at the RSG, 14th Oct. KO 3pm