1st XV Team Manger
Sutton Coldfield 24pts v Droitwich RFC 26pts
Throughout a troubled and frustrating season Sutton had good and bad periods in turn but at the end of the penultimate game of the season the wins achieved in the good periods were sufficient to see Sutton safe, securing their place in Midlands 1 West for next season with an unassailable lead in 10th place over the team in the top relegation spot in 12th place.
That place is occupied by Longton, who going into the final two games sat 8 points behind Sutton and assuming Sutton lost both games with no bonus points, Longton required two wins and a bonus point to overhaul Sutton putting Sutton into a relegation battle with Stourbridge, who were level with Sutton on points in 11th place with two games to play... but in the event Longton lost their penultimate game with the final play of the match and although they courageously won two bonus points with the narrow defeat plus tries scored they still trail Sutton, who won a losing bonus point, by 7 points going into the final game with 5 points the maximum number of points on offer, meaning whatever happens Sutton are safe from relegation and they can now prepare for next season taking the lessons learned from this season into the preseason Summer training ahead of next season!!
After the recent run of poor results heading into the end of the season Sutton can reflect on some very positive points but also recognise there is work to be done to eradicate a repeated tendency in recent games to lose a match from a winning position with brief lapses and simple errors handing easy scores and the initiative back to their opponents...and last weekend was no exception with Sutton leading 17-7 at the break and very much in control they conceded two tries and 12 points in two minutes early in the second half to trail 19-17 and then conceded again 6 minutes later to trail 26-17 but showing their true spirit and determination Sutton fought back in the closing period to score a converted try secureing a losing bonus point in the 26-24 defeat.
The game kicked off in bright sunshine and perfect playing conditions in front of a large crowd swelled by an influx of ex players, who had just completed their annual 'Old Players' lunch courtesy of club stalwart Del Green and family, who once again excelled themselves with an excellent lunch and thanks to clubman Paul Harrison, who organised the event.
Having received the ball from the kick-off Droitwich knocked on and the player who tried to retrieve the ball was called for off side giving Sutton a 35 metre penalty opportunity in mid field, which fly half Ben Morgan calmly struck home to give Sutton a 3-0 lead after just one minute of play. From the restart Sutton again applied pressure in the visitors half but an ankle injury to Sutton's influential young flanker Jack Wells brought Chris Bancroft on as replacement after 10 minutes of play and as Sutton settled back to the game after the disruption, Droitwich drove play up to the Sutton try line edging along the try line with successive drives before their best player Phil Horton at no8 forced his way over for the opening try close to the posts. Fly half Bobby Scott Walker added the easy conversion to give the visitors a 7-3 lead after 12 minutes of play.
From the restart Sutton responded well and took play into the Droitwich half gaining a penalty, which was kicked into the corner on the Sutton right but although Sutton claimed the ball at the lineout and started to drive towards the Droitwich try line they were unable to get the ball to ground before the referee called time as the maul was stopped just 1 metre out and Sutton surrendered the ball for a Droitwich scrum allowing the oppressed visitors to clear. Again with Dean Ginn restored to the hookers role after injury, Sutton reclaimed the ball at the lineout and set up a series of attacks in the next period of play, then following an excellent build up with fullback Joel James making the initial break taking play into the Droitwich 22 and aided by scrum half Ollie Green the play progressed towards the Droitwich try line with great interplay, moving the ball right then switching back into midfield before Sutton's powerful no8 George Ord found the gap needed to force his way over for an excellent try under the posts. Ben Morgan added the conversion to take Sutton back into the lead at 10-7 after 20 minutes of play.
Sutton continued to impress with the scrums and lineouts going well in an evenly matched contest but with Sutton just edging in front and with half time approaching Sutton set up an attack down their right flank before again switching play infield on the Droitwich 22 and outside centre Paul Spiby took a trademark crash ball at pace to break through the defensive wall before beating the final defender as he grounded the ball close to the posts for a decisive try, which was converted by Ben Morgan to give Sutton a 17-7 lead just 1 minute before the halftime whistle.
With Sutton once again in the ascendency all seemed set fair but 6 minutes into the second period Sutton's 2 minute curse came back to haunt them as Droitwich were awarded a penalty on their 22 and they kicked long for a lineout in the Sutton half on the Droitwich left wing. The ball was won by Droitwich who drove up the left wing before spinning the ball to the right wing and then as the ball came back in field prop Ben Smith was on hand to crash over for a surprise try, which was converted by Bobby Scott Walker to close to 17-14 but 2 minutes later, from the restart no8 Phil Horton was given a free run to the try line to score to the right of the posts. The conversion was missed but the try allowed the visitors to retake the lead at 19-17 with 8 minutes of the second played.
The Sutton curse continued when just 6 minutes later fly half Bobby Scott Walker scored an impressive solo try for Droitwich as he danced across in front of the Sutton posts with no one from Sutton making the decisive tackle as he scored a cheeky try under the posts, adding the conversion himself to stretch the Droitwich lead to 26-17 with 26 minutes left to play.
Again Sutton responded well to the 3 try set back and at last halfway through the second half they managed run the ball successfully to release left wing George Creed into space and the will of a wisp flying winger showed his exception pace and verve as he raced 40 metres down the left wing before cutting in field to score under the posts, giving Ben Morgan an easy conversion and bringing Sutton to within 2 points of their opponents at 26-24 with 20 minutes left to play.
In the closing period not knowing the results in the other games, Sutton set about sealing victory in this game but whilst both teams came close to scoring in the final minutes both defences held firm and deep into injury time it was the visitors who kicked the ball out off play to secure their 2 point victory.
With other results going their way for now Sutton can put aside their frustrations after surrendering another winning position in 2 minutes of madness early in the second half compounded by another lapse just 6 minutes later; 3 tries and 2 conversions in 8 minutes but they can be pleased by their fightback to close to 26-24 plus the entertainment both sides provided for the large crowd of spectators on a very pleasant afternoon of rugby with neither side suffering long term pain.
This weekend Sutton complete their season with a trip to old friends and rivals at Dudley Kingswinsford RFC, who are still in the mix fighting for a play-off place so they will be going all out for 5 points in this game, old friends or not. All support welcome for what should be another highly entertaining game of rugby. KO 3pm.