PIC GALLERY: Sutton & Epsom's winning run comes to an end
8:13am Tuesday 24th September 2013 in Other Rugby
By John Croysdill
Sutton & Epsom's winning start to the London Division One South came to an end at the hands Sidcup, going down 23-19.
It was certainly one of the most dramatic games at Rugby Lane for a long time, but for all the disappointment, sober reflection suggests that Sidcup were worthy winners.
They were a streetwise combination, typical of many sides Sutton will face in the coming months, using their big weight advantage to telling effect and ultimately outscoring Sutton by three tries to one.
However, a bonus point was the least that Sutton deserved.
Driving forward play brought Sidcup two of their three tries, but on an afternoon when Sutton's Sam Hurley’s place-kicking was faultless, they were never quite able to shake off the snapping Sutton terriers.
Clear: Sutton & Epsom's Andy Nichols clears the lines SP79014
Sutton had led 9-5 at the break, thanks to three Hurley specials, but the damage was done in the third quarter.
With two penalties in four minutes, Sidcup soon wrested the advantage from Sutton, and when the tireless Phil Williams had to leave the field nursing a rib injury and the pack had to be reshaped, the visitors spotted their chance.
Working up a head of steam, Sidcup rumbled downfield as Sutton visibly creaked and scored the try which opened up a seven-point lead.
But Sutton do not know how to quit, and on the hour they scored a quite magnificent try - from well within in his own half, Chris Hitchcock’s inch perfect chip was gathered on the bounce by Mike Cartledge, whose off-load, while being sandbagged by two Sidcup defenders, found Ian Knott.
Trying: Ian Knott ended an excellent Sutton & Epsom move by going over the whitewash for the host's only try SP79014
The full-back knew precisely what to do and, shaking off three lunging tackles, sped to the posts. Hurley’s conversion was a formality and against all odds it was 16-16.
Sutton then took the lead with an inch-perfect penalty and they held onto the three-point advantage into the dying moment.
With the referee signalling that the time was all but up, Sidcup launched one last power play and with a demented drive, in which many backs aided their forwards, just succeeded in grounding the ball over the Sutton line.
There was not even time to restart the game. Sidcup’s joy was as understandable as Sutton’s disappointment, but both sides knew they had taken part in a splendid game.
Coach Jeff Parsons takes his side to winless Staines Town this weekend.
Team: Ian Knott; Mike Cartledge, Sam Hurley, Pete Matthews, Andy Nichols; Chris Hitchcock, Jak Martin; Raynn Bruce, Phil Williams, Nick Dougal, Mike Blakeburn, Felix Symonds, James Caddy, Joe Ridgley, Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: Tariq Al Khaldi, Dave Crowest, Frankie Murray.
Skipper: Matt Whitaker holds off a Sidcup challenge (all pictures: SP79014)
Concentration: Andy Nichols
Tackled: Andy Nichols
Moving forward: Chris Hitchcock makes inroads into Sidcup territory
BOOM: Raynn Bruce prepares for a Sidcup tackle