Match report - 17th Feb 2018
Stoke-on-Trent RFC 17 pts v Sutton Coldfield RFC 32 pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
Once again Sutton 1st XV denied their lowly league position when they produced another outstanding league performance to inflict a convincing 32-17 defeat on their well placed hosts Stoke RFC, who only the previous weekend had beaten league leaders Dudley Kingswinford.
With 6 games remaining it is still possible for this spirited Sutton side to save themselves from relegation and based on the ability they have shown with performances like this, who would bet against them.
As to the game itself, a superb display by Sutton saw them come away from the North Staffordshire countryside with a well deserved 32-17 bonus point win, which lifted them to 12th place in the league table of 14 teams but with the bottom 3 teams facing relegation Sutton find themselves 12 points adrift of the 11th placed team and safety.
As ever this season overnight disruption saw flanker Mike Burns having to pull out with illness, which meant a start on the flank for former M & J youngster Jonah Falconer, who moved off the bench into the starting line-up and went on to have another great game, with excellent support play and some big tackles. Late call ups also saw winger T J Allwood come into the starting line-up to replace Nathan Burchell, who is still troubled with a hamstring injury and centre Chris Hendley come onto the bench to provide cover for the backs with erstwhile prop Scott Toy providing the essential front row cover. Club stalwart Tom Foulsham moved off the bench to start in the 2nd row alongside the talented teenager Harry Moxom following the late withdrawal of fellow teenager Lamaar Lawrence, who has made such an impact in recent games but coming into this game he was suffering from a troublesome hip. Vaughan Brown was drafted onto the bench at short notice to provide backrow cover and later in the game he was destined to make his 1st XV debut having played with distinction for many years in the 2nd and 3rd XV’s.
So once again, with all the disruption caused by injuries and late call-ups plus the team being restricted to only one brief training session during the week due to the ground conditions at Sutton, it was with a somewhat reconstructed but strong looking side, strengthened by the experienced new pairing of Paul Spiby and Jack Duthie in the centre and featuring Tom Harris at scrum half, that Sutton kicked off in bright sunshine but on a heavy pitch after the recent rains, against a Stoke on Trent side currently 4th in the league and riding high on the crest of a wave having won 5 of their previous 6 games, which included toppling league leaders Dudley Kingswinford just a week earlier.
However, undaunted, the boys in green grabbed the initiative from the off with forward driving play and never looked back after the ever threatening Tom Burrows put Sutton ahead after just 5 minutes with his 9th try of the season, finishing off a fine break in mid-field by the excellent Luke Stewart, who setup the fullback to score in the right corner . Although Ben Morgan’s conversion drifted wide this great start was consolidated just 3 minutes later when Luke Stewart finished off a move that began with a Morgan turnover in Sutton's own 22; a Tom Harris box kick contested by Harry Moxon and superb support play by Peter Meachin all contributing to a fine team try that brought delight to the hordes of travelling support, Morgan’s fine conversion extending the lead to 12-0 with 8 minutes played.
Returning to the no8 slot after a recent injury, Stewart’s try was his 4th of a brilliant campaign and marked his return to the side after the injury, albeit dosed up on painkillers and his superb breaks from the base of the scrum were a major contributing factor in this ‘upset of the season’ victory.
10 minutes in Stoke briefly threatened to get back in the game following the restart, when scrum half Chris Yates forced his way over after taking a quick tap penalty in front of the Sutton posts with Andy Marsh adding the extra points reducing the deficit to 12-7 but sadly it was Yates’s last contribution as he picked up a knock in the process of scoring.
From this point on the game tended to ebb and flow with Sutton competing strongly in defence and attack with neither side taking the initiative and the only score during this period of play was another excellent penalty goal from 35 metres by Sutton fly half Ben Morgan on 22 minutes extending the Sutton lead to 15-7, giving the visitors a reassuring 8 point cushion, which carried through to the interval.
The expected early 2nd half onslaught from the hosts did not disappoint with prop Carl Williams forcing his way over for an unconverted try after just 3 minutes of play in the second half, to close to 12-15.
However, another well struck Morgan penalty goal from the edge of the Stoke 22 shortly afterwards, when Stoke were caught off side in mid-field, restored the lead to 18-12 with 5 minutes of the second half played steadying the ship, before Burrows once again showed what a fine finisher he is to cross for his 2nd try of the afternoon and his 10th of the season. His brace in the game takes him to the head of the try scoring charts at Sutton, where he was previously level with Chris Duckworth. His second try exemplified the quality of the Sutton backs and featured the pace and distribution skills of centres Jack Duthie and Paul Spiby plus the positive running of right wing Jack Wells following another magnificent break through the midfield by no8 Luke Stewart.
Morgan’s successful conversion extended the lead to 25-12 with 14 minutes of the 2nd half gone.
Stoke’s replacement scrum half Chris Rowley reduced the deficit to 17-25 on 26 minutes thanks to an unconverted score out wide before the biggest cheer of the day was delivered for the outstanding Peter Meachin, who playing at open side flanker supported a Sutton attack in the Stoke 22. The Sutton play started on the right wing deep in the Stoke 22 but as Stoke shored up their wide defences the play swung infield before the flanker received the ball and showed great pace and strength to make it to the line as he fought off would be tacklers to stretch out and ground the ball over the try line under the posts after 75 minutes for the all important 4th try, securing a much valued bonus point for the Sutton side. Morgan knocked over the simple conversion, which ended the scoring with an impressive scoreline of 32-17 in favour of the boys from Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield.
The game saw a great all-around team performance by Sutton. The set piece play was good and the visitors won the battle at the breakdown, which denied the host club the type of quick ball that had helped them overcome DK last week. The midfield partnership of Jack Duthie and Paul Spiby worked well with the latter’s tackling and defensive shift setting the high standards achieved by all in the Sutton side. It would also be remiss not to highlight the performances of two youngsters on the wings Jack Wells and Thomas Allwood and the contribution of stand in 2nd row Tom Foulsham, who showed great grit and determination to get through the game despite suffering a worrying head injury in the warm up, which was not helped by a knock in the first half on the same spot.
Sutton take a break from league rugby this weekend with the next league fixture scheduled for Saturday week 3rd March, when Sutton entertain Stourbridge Lions in yet another must win encounter; 6 games to go and after this win Sutton are up to 12th in the table but with 12 points still to make up on 11th place Rugby Lions and safety, every game counts.
Team: Sean Harrison(Capt), Dean Ginn, Dave Smith, Harry Moxon, Tom Foulsham, Jonah Falconer, Peter Meachin, Luke Stewart, Tom Harris, Ben Morgan, Jack Wells, Jack Duthie, Paul Spiby, Thomas Allwood, Tom Burrows. Subs(used): Chris Hendley, Scott Toy, Vaughan Brown.
to see an accurate league table: