Sutton & Epsom hold their nerve to collect the points in Hampshire
2:17pm Monday 14th October 2013 in Rugby Union
by John Croysdill
Sutton & Epsom bounced back from a disappointing defeat at home to Wimbledon with a dramatic 39-37 win at Havant last weekend.
The win lifts Jeff Parsons' men to fifth in the London Division One South table, ahead of a two-week break.
Dramatic finishes are becoming almost an art form for Sutton & Epsom, but few games could match this extraordinary match at Havant.
It was almost 90 minutes of raw excitement, with both sides playing themselves to a standstill under the Pompey sunshine and fully earning the huge ovation they received as they left the field.
The bald statistics tell you that Sutton won by by six tries to four, but it was the way the game evolved that made it such a gripping spectacle.
We might have known we were in for a rather special afternoon when a rampaging 50-yard burst by Matt Whitaker in the first minute almost flummoxed the Havant defence.
Havant weathered that storm and then went one better, kicking a seventh-minute penalty and then breaking through a suspect rearguard for a try in the first quarter.
Sutton’s response was devastating - already showing more than a hint of their attacking flair, they shredded the Havant defence with four tries in precisely 14 minutes.
Shawn Renwick set the tone in the 25th minute, the tireless James Bennett and James Caddy followed suit, and on the stroke of half-time the Australian centre Guy Stuckey-Clarke crowned a fine debut with the bonus point touchdown.
With a conversion apiece by Chris Hitchcock and Frankie Murray, Sutton went into the break with a deserved but somewhat improbable 24-13 lead.
But Havant are nothing if not resilient, and spurred on by a crowd of more than 300, they relentlessly chipped away at Sutton’s 11-point advantage.
A try by Whitaker, improved by Murray, offered some respite, but Havant now clearly had the whiphand. And it was centre Joel Knight who led the Havant fightback.
Knight had scored three tries and 25 points in his side’s big win at Beckenham the previous week, and now he was a constant thorn in Sutton’s flesh.
With 64 minutes on the clock Sutton’s lead was down to 31-30, and although Renwick again lifted Sutton hearts with an unconverted try eight minutes from normal time, such a riveting game demanded a fitting denouement. It got two.
The first came some four minutes into injury time, when the Hooks Lane crowd, now beside themselves with joy, saw Knight burst through near the posts and kick the conversion himself for a second successive 25-point haul.
Havant led 37-36 and the game was won – or so everyone thought. Yet two minutes later, with the time almost up, Sutton dug deep once more.
A furious forward drive had Havant back-pedalling and desperately yielding a penalty.
You could hear a pin drop as Murray stepped up for the decisive wide-angled penalty attempt.
And the little scrum-half struck the ball beautifully and then watched it sail just inside the right-hand upright.
Sutton return to action on October 26 at home to Chobham.
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