Match report - 21st April 2018
Sutton Coldfield 53pts v Camp Hill 19pts
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SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
Last Saturday saw Sutton 1st XV going into their final game of a difficult season full of ups and downs, in which the early part of the season was definitely on the down as the team was plagued by injuries and disruptions week after week leaving them languishing at the bottom of the table over Christmas and then losing all four games in January 2018 put their prospects of survival in this league in a very precarious position...but then something magical happened in February and Sutton started out on the upward climb. Although they had a lot of ground to make up Sutton started to win their games winning 6 out of 8 of their games through February and March into April gaining a bonus point in 5 of the 6 wins, so going into this final game, against the odds, Sutton had pulled themselves out of the relegation zone but they still needed a good win and other results to go their way before they could celebrate their miraculous recovery.
This then was the setting for this very important final league fixture to be played at the Roger Smoldon Memorial Ground this season, in front of a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters, who knew full well the season defining nature of the game. The large home crowd included a contingent of around 80 past players from the Sutton club, who before the game had enjoyed their annual 'old players' lunch in the Sutton clubhouse, where they had enjoyed good food and good company along with good alcohol to celebrate their long lasting comradeship in the traditional manner of the game of rugby.
Then to follow was a feast of competitive league rugby in a game that really mattered at least to Sutton...and the young Sutton side duly delivered for their predecessors showing them how the modern game is played with a scintillating 53-19 victory including 8-3 in tries, over old rivals Camp Hill, recording the all important bonus point win and with the news that one of their relegation rivals Rugby Lions had lost their equally important league match on the same afternoon, Sutton had secured their league status for another season to the delight of the bumper crowd and the team plus all the Sutton club officials
As has been the case on many other occasions this season Sutton had to accommodate a late change when the promising Keiren Henderson failed a lunchtime fitness test and another promising Colt, 18 year old Matt Price was handed a debut in the 2nd row alongside his Colts captain Harry Moxon. On the plus side, returning to the side for this must win game to avoid the drop, were flanker Rhoss Price, winger Tom McNamee and the successful centre partnership of Jack Duthie and Paul Spiby were all restored to the starting XV with last week’s outstanding debutant, 18 year old Will Poland, switching to full back to fill the massive void left by Nathan Burchell, who so sadly broke his leg at Burton the previous week. Another boost was the inclusion on the bench of last season’s leading try scorer Miles Gregory, who has missed the last 6 months of the season following major wrist surgery.
On a lovely spring afternoon and on a perfect pitch befitting the occasion, Sutton got off to the perfect start when in the very first minute following the Camp Hill kick off, Sutton skipper Sean Harrison gathered a misdirected clearance from the visitors 22 on the halfway line and sent right wing Tom Burrows racing down his wing deep into Camp Hill territory. The powerful wing broke through two attempted tackles at pace and handed off Camp Hill captain Mitch Lee before weaving his way over the try line for a great winger’s try in the right corner.
Unfortunately the difficult conversion drifted wide and the score remained at 5-0 but just three minutes later the Sutton lead was extended to 12-0 when revitalised centre Paul Spiby scored a superb try after cutting a great line in midfield following a long clearance by Sutton fullback Will Poland, which was gathered by Sutton to feed the skilled centre, who raced to the try line. Sutton fly half Ben Morgan converted the second try.
The home side’s joy at making such a great start was shortlived when after 10 minutes Camp Hill winger Sam Garrett worked himself into space in the 22 before finishing well, fly half Lewis Beatty converted to reduce the deficit to 12-7.
This open game continued at a tremendous pace and after 18 minutes the bionic Spiby reacted with remarkable composure to score his 2nd try of the afternoon and his 4th of the season as he grounded the ball against the foot of the post following a moment of calamity in the visitor’s defence. In the build up to the try Camp Hill lost possession on the Sutton 22 and as the ball went loose Sutton were quick to claim possession breaking out of their own half at pace before kicking ahead to take play into the visitors 22 causing the Camp Hill defender to fumble and Sutton chipped on again with the ball bouncing towards the posts. Fortunately, Paul Spiby had the composure to control the bouncing ball and make a perfect grounding against the post. Morgan again knocked over the conversion to push the lead out to 19-7 with 22 minutes to play to the break.
The revival of 37 year old Paul Spiby’s rugby story is a remarkable one; after playing 1st XV rugby at Sutton in his 20's many serious injuries and family commitments etc. led to years away from the game but having played socially for Sutton Vets, Paul got a taste for the game again and with his families approval he returned to the 1st XV in January 2018. He has been in the winning team 6 times in the 9 games he has started. His outstanding performances at outside centre is a great testament to his rugby knowledge, skill set, level of fitness and desire to succeed... and his successful partnership with his equally experienced and gifted fellow inside centre Jack Duthie established in the second half of the season has been an inspiration to the essentially young Sutton side and one of the reasons for Sutton's excellent winning run to the end of the season
However, Sutton’s inability to deal with restarts again came back to haunt them 4 minutes later when visiting prop Will Warwick forced his way over in the corner and Beatty added an excellent conversion to offer the Shirley based club hope again with the lead trimmed to 19-14, but after 30 minutes of a highly entertaining 1st half, fly half Morgan, on a day when he went over 200 points for the campaign, kicked a fine penalty goal from 45 metres which pushed the Sutton lead out to 22-14 before Tom McNamee flew down the left wing after 36 minutes to score a fine individual try in the corner, his 2nd try since his recent return ‘on loan’ from Leicester Lions, a try that also secured the ‘4 try bonus point’.
The 2nd half started with Sutton leading 27-14 and within 4 minutes of the restart as Sutton drove play towards the visitors try line from a 5 metre defensive scrum Sutton stole possession and ’Captain Fantastic’ Sean Harrison showed great agility to ground the ball for his 3rd try of the season extending the Sutton lead to 32-14.
Sutton now had a firm grip on the game, which they never looked like relinquishing and 5 minutes later a long clearance down the Sutton right wing was skilfully gathered by right wing Tom Burrows, who immediately fed the ball to his chasing fullback Will Poland, who raced to the line for his first senior try, which Morgan converted to push the lead out to 39-14 with 30 minutes to play.
Camp Hill to their great credit continued to compete and play good rugby at every opportunity but they were undone again after 65 minutes by Tom Burrows who sliced through the defensive line for his 2nd try of the afternoon and his 20th of an outstanding season; again Morgan added the extras and Sutton led 46-14 with 15 minutes to play.
With the game seemingly wrapped up Sutton Head Coach Joe Gavin was able to withdraw the influential Harrison, McNamee and Burrows allowing run-outs for youngsters Jonah Falconer, Jack Wells and Miles Gregory.
One of the biggest roars of a great afternoon was reserved for former Leicester Tigers Academy graduate Will Poland, who was quick to react to a loose ball in Sutton's 22 and after gathering his own kick ahead had the legs to canter home from half way for his 2nd try of an impressive home debut day, Morgan knocked over the conversion for a 53-14 lead, which was reduced at the final whistle to 53-19 when Alex Gibson went over in the corner for a consolation try for the visitors in stoppage time.
There were jubilant scenes soon after the final whistle when news of Rugby Lion's defeat came through confirming Sutton were staying up and had indeed achieved the ‘Great Escape’ few outside the playing group thought possible. Great credit must go to coach Joe Gavin, captain Sean Harrison and the players for what they have accomplished, 7 wins in their last 9 games with the only defeats coming against champions Burton, was a commendable end to a challenging season that came good in the end.
The contribution to the Senior Sides survival fight made by this year’s Colts, fresh from their Fred Rowley Cup triumph on Tuesday night, cannot be overstated and much credit must go to coaches Dan Lockley, Sandy O'Hare and Gregg Henderson in facilitating their development.
Special Congratulations to the two 18 year old Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School lads Matt Price and Will Poland who both played the full 80 minutes in this game and did themselves proud with outstanding performances in a game of vital importance.
Again thanks and recognition also go to the 'experienced players', prop Dave Smith, centre Paul Spiby and utility back Nathan Burchell, who all returned to 1st XV rugby from retirement when called upon to help out with the growing injury problems early in the season and ex-Sutton players Tom McNamee and Liam Hills, who agreed to return to Sutton on loan agreements to see Sutton through the crisis.
Also as noted previously, players from the Sutton Colts have made an impressive contribution to Sutton's senior side through the season assisting in the fight for survival in pressure games with Colts Captain Harry Moxon a regular starter along with Jack Wells and Kieran Henderson plus Lamaar Lawrence, Will Smewin, Matt Price and the celebrated Will Poland. Thanks to all.
The senior squad coaching team led by Head Coach Joe Gavin and his assistant head coach Sandy O'Hare, supported by Gregg Henderson and Dean Harper plus Dan Lockley are to be congratulated on how they have kept the team spirit high even in the darkest days when defeat and injury were the order of the day...but Sutton came through and proved their metal and character to not only survive but also flourish in adverse circumstances. Well done all.
Before we sign off for the summer, it only remains to thank the support staff, who look after the needs of the team in all manner of ways starting with Sutton's medical officer Lance White and his important team of medical assistants led by Callum with Rachael and Katie, who keep the players on the right side of fitness. The grounds people who prepare the excellent pitches under the direction of Sutton's House & Grounds Manager Tom Jones and Del Green, who prepares hot food on training nights, which is especially appreciated on the winter nights. Additional support has been provided for many seasons by Steve Marshall who has worked tirelessly with the lower teams to maintain interest and support for the 1st XV and Andre Cardin, who is stepping down having served the club for many years first as masseur/physio, then as video analyser and team selection secretary, we thank them all plus a big thank you to Gerard Shanahan, who has provided key support to all the teams including the 1st XV, the Colts and the Sutton Women, covering many of their matches through out the season with photo's and match reports on social media and playing statistics all carefully recorded.
Of course the biggest thank you goes to the loyal supporters who have followed the Sutton team home and away during a difficult season but their loyal support has carried the team 'out of the darkness into the sunlight' with hopes of better things to come next season, when Sutton hope to be meeting challenges at the other end of the table.
Have a great summer all.
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manager
Team: Sean Harrison(Capt), Dean Ginn, Liam Hills, Harry Moxon, Matt Price, Mike Burns, Rhoss Price, Luke Stewart, Ollie Green, Ben Morgan, Tom McNamee, Jack Duthie, Paul Spiby, Tom Burrows, Will Poland. Subs(used): Jonah Falconer, Jack Wells, Miles Gregory.