Sutton & Epsom brought their London Division One South home fixtures to a conclusion with a workmanlike 34-17 victory over Hove last Saturday.
With both sides long since safe from relegation, there was only pride to play for and the game had a distinct end of season feel to it, with handling errors aplenty.
In front of a bumper crowd, boosted by almost 100 mini players bedecked in black and white, Sutton were able to secure a bonus point victory but they never seemed in complete control of proceedings until the final 15 minutes of the game.
As Sutton know from the reverse fixture before Christmas, Hove are not the easiest team to play against.
Their rush defence and speed to the breakdown are key elements of their game and helped by a full back with a booming right foot they can secure territory and put points on the board from penalty kicks alone.
Sutton welcomed back Andy Nichols and Pete Matthews to the back line, the latter returning after an absence of seven months but unfortunately he sustained a recurrence of the leg injury in the first half to be replaced by his younger brother Andy who was making his first team debut.
Lyndon Burrell made his second appearance of the season at scrum half with Frankie Murray moving to fly half.
In the forwards, Paul Parker and Shawn Renwick linked up in the second row, with James Caddy returning from injury at number eight, Paul Webster replaced the suspended Tariq Al Khaldi in the front row.
With the benefit of a stiff breeze Sutton quickly opened up a 6 point lead courtesy of two Sam Hurley penalties and in the early exchanges Sutton applied significant pressure but the Hove defence was resolute combined with a tendency by Sutton to over complicate matters when the try line was within sight.
However Sutton soon managed to find their way across the Hove line.
With 17 minutes played, Sutton turned over possession within their 10 metre line, Pete Matthews hacked the ball forward and Andy Nichols out-sprinted the Hove defence to score his fifth try of the season.
Powerhouse: Raynn Bruce
Hurley slotted the conversion from close to the left touchline. Hove full back Sam Whiting scored his first penalty into the wind just after Sutton had lost Pete Matthews and despite all of their possession, Sutton only had a ten point lead with just over thirty minutes played.
It was the younger Matthews who was to ensure that his debut was a memorable one, he managed to evade a couple of tacklers and broke clear of the Hove defence to score unopposed from the 25m line.
Hurley had the task of a straight forward conversion to provide Sutton with a 17 point cushion at half time.
The opening of the second half saw Sutton conceded a number of penalties for offences at the breakdown and Sam Whiting helped himself to three long range penalties to reduce Sutton’s lead to eight points.
Score: Andy Matthews goes over the whitewash f
Following a sweeping move from deep inside the Sutton half a perfectly timed pass from Ian Knott released Hurley to score and convert his try to reinstate Sutton’s lead.
Almost immediately Hove scored their only try of the afternoon when winger Ryan Morlan intercepted a pass and ran 55m to cross the line, although the conversion was missed.
Sutton finally secured their victory with five minutes remaining when a driving maul from a line out resulted in Shawn Renwick crashing over, for his 13th try of the season, from close range. Hurley continued his perfect afternoon from the kicking tee with the subsequent conversion.
Whilst this might not rank as one of Sutton’s best performances of the season, a victory was well deserved after a run of defeats primarily to sides at the top end of the table.
Next Saturday, Sutton travel to Dover for their final league game of the season and have been drawn at home to Guildford in the Surrey Trophy.
A date for the match has yet to be confirmed but April 26 is a possibility.
Team: Ian Knott, Sam Hurley, Guy Stuckey-Clarke, Pete Matthews, Andy Nichols, Frankie Murray, Lyndon Burrell, George London, Raynn Bruce, Paul Webster, Paul Parker, Shawn Renwick, Joe Ridgley, Chris Pointing, James Caddy.
Replacements: Steve Burton, Nick Dougal, Andy Matthews.
Quick move: Lyndon Burrell in action