Womens Match report - Sunday 15th April 2018
By Ken Sims
Sutton Ladies 21pts v Cannock Ladies 12pts
Match report - Gerry Shanahan.
NC League Midlands 2 Central
Sutton Ladies fought back from a 12-0 deficit early in the 2nd half to record a memorable 21-12 win over league leadership rivals Cannock Ladies at the Roger Smoldon Ground on Sunday 15th April and in so doing the Sutton girls drew level with Cannock at the top of the table... and with a game in hand they have almost certainly secured the league title in just their first season of competitive rugby.
In front of yet another huge crowd it was the visitors who assumed the early ascendency setting the tone for the rest of a half they went on to dominate in terms of possession and territory. Some outstanding last gasp defending kept the visitors out until 3 minutes before the break when they were awarded a penalty try when a try saving tackle by Kerrie-Anne Melsom was deemed high by the referee.
Trailing 7-0 at the break and with flanker Liz Fletcher having to be helped from the field with suspected broken ribs matters immediately worsened for the home side when Cannock hooker Marie Shea found a hole in the Sutton rearguard following the restart and finished well to give her side a 12-0 lead, the conversion being missed.
Things continued to go from bad to worse for Sutton when their other outstanding flanker Natalie Kennett had to be helped from the field to be replaced by young Maisie Goodreid after appearing to have got knocked out in an unfortunate collision.
This was now real backs to the wall stuff for these Sutton girls with captain Charlie Byrne demanding a huge final effort to preserve their unbeaten league record.
The response was in keeping with the character that has been evident all season and it was fitting that it was Byrne herself who was to get Sutton back in the game with 25 minutes to go when she weaved her way through the Cannock defence to score a great try, her 9th of the season, which Holly Wheeldon converted to trim the deficit to 7-12.
Incredibly the tide had now well and truly turned and it was Sutton who were dominating in all areas and 7 minutes later Holly Wheeldon, after a series of drives by the forwards ,forced her way over from close range to level the scores, Byrne’s unerring left boot knocked over the conversion and Sutton led for the first time 14-12.
Holly Wheeldon’s sister Tara Wheeldon, aided by front row colleagues Vicky Sullivan and Abbie Buttery, continued to take the fight to the tiring visitors with great support from Emma Clueit, Genna Pilling, Nicola Kington and Jessica Nally fresh from her Warwickshire debut on Friday night and after a flowing backs move Sutton winger Elise Graham almost squeezed over in the corner only to have been deemed to have been held up over the line.
2nd row Mollie Campbell also had to be helped from the field after injuring her lower leg but despite all the casualties the momentum continued to be with the home side and more quick thinking by Holly Wheeldon with 15 minutes to go led to Sutton’s 3rd try in the space of 12 minutes when she tapped and went from a penalty inside the Cannock 22 before touching down for her 2nd try of the afternoon sending the noisy home support into raptures, the acclaim continued as she expertly converted her own try to extend the home lead to 21-12.
The game played out without any further addition to the scoreline with Sutton continuing to dominate, denying the visitors any way back into a game they at one stage had looked likely to run away with but Sutton showed great resolve to snatch back the initiative and claim the victory. The mark of true champions!
Much credit must go to Cannock for a great game and for playing so well particularly in the first half where they were much the better side and deservedly led.
As poor as Sutton were in that 1st half they were outstanding in the 2nd and showed why they are the best team in the league this season; missing several key players today they still found a way to win when the chips were down. Half backs Christine McEvoy and the inspirational Charlie Byrne eventually bossed the show along with 18 year old centre Katie Gregory a prodigious talent who challenged the visitors all afternoon both in defence and attack.
Holly Wheeldon will rightly gain the plaudits for her match winning contributions and we hope she is able to play more regularly next season as she is a real asset.
Thank you to the incredible crowd that turned out and continued to encourage the Sutton girls when things weren’t going their way. They made the difference and helped Sutton over the line.
Finally, many congratulations to coaches Nathan Burchell (broken leg), George Ord (broken shoulder) and Tom Foulsham (broken arm) for developing a squad many of whom had never played rugby until recently and moulding them into an unbeaten league winning team. Special thanks also to our medical support team led by Sports Therapist Callum Davidson and Lance White and ably assisted by students Rachel Gillan and Katie Connolly.
The league title cannot be 100% confirmed until the RFU decide what to do with the two outstanding fixtures Sutton have being trying in vain to arrange with bottom of the table Longton, it could be Sutton will be awarded walkovers although they would be more than happy to fulfil the games, watch this space.
Team: Vicky K Sullivan, Tara Wheeldon, Abbie Buttery, Genna Pilling, Nicola Kington, Liz Fletcher, Natalie Kennett, Emma Clueit, Christine McEvoy, Charlie Byrne(Capt), Hope Southall, Katie Gregory, Holly Wheeldon, Elise Graham, Kerrie-Kerrie-anne Melsom. Subs(used): Jessica Nally, Mollie Campbell, Maisie Goodreid, Carla Malek, Nafeesah Nabi, Rhian Etheridge.