Match report - 8th Sept 2018
By Ken Sims
Hereford RFC 19pts v Sutton Coldfield 21pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team manager
After the drama's and disruptions caused by successive injuries during the early part of last season, Sutton have made a solid and steady start to their new season and most importantly they have suffered no significant injuries to disrupt their team selection; so although they lost a close opening game against league favourites D-K, Sutton 1st XV bounced back last week with a close fought but notable 21-19 victory away to Hereford, a team they have failed to beat since the early 2000's.
Having lost both games in the league last season home and away and knowing their poor record at the Wyeside ground, the Sutton team did well to rise to the occasion and produce a performance that laid the Hereford ghost to rest, hopefully once and for all...
But the game was not plain sailing as Sutton kicked off in dry conditions after heavy overnight rainfall had softened the previously hard surface to leave perfect playing conditions for the match, with both sides prepared to run the ball when given the chance and it was the visitors who followed the ball into the Hereford half applying the early pressure with positive play by the backs and forwards alike.
However, after 10 minutes play Hereford cleared the ball into touch deep in the visitors 22 on the Sutton right wing for a defensive lineout close to the Sutton try line. Unfortunately the Sutton throw was misdirected and was gathered by Hereford's hooker Lewis Jordon, who dived over for the opening score to the left of the posts. The conversion was missed but Hereford moved into a 5-0 lead against the run of play.
Shocked by the surprise score Sutton rallied and once again took the game to their opponents with the pack holding their own comfortably in the set scrums and dominant in the loose led by lively no8 and captain for the day Peter Meachin and marauding second row Jack Ward, who applied the perfect finish to a passage of play by the Sutton backs, which swung the ball across the Hereford 22 from the Sutton left taking play over to the right wing where 21 year old Ward joined the attack cutting back in field and charging through the split defence to score to the right of the posts. The score recorded a first try at the Sutton club for the powerful young player, who happily joined Sutton in the summer to add muscle and power to the pack plus the mobility and hunger he demonstrated throughout the game.
Fly half Ben Morgan added the conversion to give Sutton a deserved 7-5 lead with 18 minutes played.
However, the home side came right back at Sutton after the restart taking play deep into the Sutton 22 setting up a forward drive, which Sutton brought down but unfortunately Sutton were penalised for bringing the drive down illegally and the Sutton try scorer was harshly handed a yellow card to reduce Sutton to 14 men for 10 minutes after 22 minutes of play.
From the ensuing penalty/lineout on the left wing Hereford won clean ball and started to drive towards the Sutton try line but this time Sutton stopped the drive legally and the Hereford scrumhalf sent the ball into mid-field and on towards the right wing, where winger Levi Hughes took the ball and cut inside smartly to score the try to the right of the posts for centre James Stubbs to add the conversion allowing the home side to retake the lead at 12-7 after 25 minutes play.
With halftime approaching the new look Sutton pack were strong and powerful in the scrums but were struggling to settle in their lineout play, also simple early season errors by both sides were causing frustration and ill-discipline was starting to cause concerns to the referee. However, the Sutton backs were looking good when given the chance to run and they created a great chance to take the lead just before the break, when Sutton's newly established lively fullback Joel James ran the ball out of his own 22 taking play up the Sutton right wing to halfway before sending last season's top try scorer Tom Burrows racing into Hereford 22. Confronted by the covering defenders the racing wing cut back inside but failed to find the supporting runner in mid-field and when the ball went to ground the chance was lost.
Trailing 12-7 at the break and faced with the slope and wind against them in the 2nd half Sutton quietened the vociferous home crowd showing enormous character to turn the game around and claim their first win of the season and in doing so they secured only their 2nd ever league success at the Wyeside ground in the last 31 years, the last being in 2002/03 when legends Dan Lockley and Nobby Styles were among the scorers.
In this game Sutton were dealt a massive blow during the warm-up to the game when captain Sean Harrison had to pull out with a hip injury but thankfully travelling reserve Liam Hills was on hand to take his place at tight head prop and over 80 minutes he performed admirably considering the short notice and the way work commitments had severely restricted his pre-season preparations. Liam Hills returned to play for Sutton towards the close of last season on loan from Leicester Lions but he is now fully reinstated as a Sutton player and for this game he returned to the front row alongside established hooker Dean Ginn and fellow prop Stephan Crane, who himself has made an impressive return to 1st XV action this season after having intrusive surgery to the base of his back around the start of last season.
One other late change saw 17 year old George Creed coming onto the bench for a potential debut following the late withdrawal of Dave Roberts as the backs replacement. In the absence of the captain, Peter Meachin was given the armband and proceeded to lead the side exceptionally well.
Anton Taylor was introduced at the break to refresh the back row as was experienced hooker Nathan Merritt shortly afterwards and slowly but surely, with the elegant midfield pairing of Jack Duthie and Paul Spiby becoming increasingly influential, Sutton began to get a grip on the game culminating after 52 minutes with the outstanding Ward scoring his 2nd try from close range following a great burst by Liam Hills; again Morgan added the extras allowing Sutton to retake a 14-12 lead.
A break in play then allowed Head Coach Joe Gavin to introduce young George Creed to the fray making him one of the youngest debutants in the Club’s history; the lad isn’t 18 till January 2019.
With ‘man of the match’ Rhoss Price at blindside flanker having a huge game alongside the impressive Meachin, Sutton continued to dominate and were rewarded after 64 minutes when full back Joel James reacted quickest of all at a ruck on the the Hereford line to dot down and record his first try for the club, a try that the assured Morgan again converted to push the lead out to 21-12, midway through the second half.
The inevitable fightback by the home side didn’t disappoint and it took some resolute defending to withstand the onslaught before deep into stoppage time, and with Merritt in the bin having taken one for the team, the referee’s patience ran out and he awarded the home side a penalty try to reduce the deficit to 21-19 following the Sutton scrum offending once too often in the ‘red zone’.
Although play restarted time was played out in the Hereford half before the final whistle blew and Sutton were able to celebrate their first win of the new campaign. A win their 2nd half performance merited and the club now look forward to the visit of Longton RFC to the RSG, Walmley Rd. this weekend, as the Sutton club continue to build towards an exciting future. KO 3pm.
Team: Steve Crane, Dean Ginn, Liam Hills, Josh Bailey, Jack Ward, Rhoss Price, Kieran Henderson, Peter Meachin(Capt), Ollie Green, Ben Morgan, Jack Wells, Jack Duthie, Paul Spiby, Tom Burrows, Joel James. Subs(used): Nathan Merritt, Anton Taylor, George Creed.
Sutton 2nd XV 26pts v Newbold upon Avon 43pts
Warwickshire 2nd Team Trophy.
Unfortunately the Sutton 2nd XV playing as a Development Side found the newly promoted Newbold upon Avon 2nd XV just too strong for the youthful Sutton side and the home club made their exit from the Warwickshire 2nd XV at the semi-final stage.