Sutton & Epsom fail to put up a fight in the derby clash
2:36pm Monday 4th November 2013 in Rugby Union
By Paul Phillips
After their barn storming exploits last week against Chobham, Sutton & Epsom succumbed rather meekly to Cobham in this London Division One South derby at Fairmile Lane, going down 24-11.
Only the most slanted of supporters would deny that Cobham thoroughly deserved their victory scoring three tries to Sutton’s one.
Sutton had to reshuffle their pack once again with skipper Matt Whitaker and James Caddy absent through injury.
Cobham had a game plan which they stuck to - they made best use of the windy conditions and forced Sutton onto the back foot for long periods of the game.
Sutton, who might have been slight favourites before the match, were required to play a more expansive game with a slippery ball to try and break through the Cobham defence - but handling errors and mistakes prevailed.
This was certainly a game that reinforced the opinion that there are no easy matches in this league.
Out of reach: Sam Hurley tries to out-strip the Cobham defence
The visitors did themselves no favours as they had three players sent to the sin bin at various stages of the game, including an extended period in the first half when they were reduced to thirteen men.
Within a two-minute period, both Mike Blakeburn and Warren Steyn offended at the ruck, and Cobham opted for a scrum from a penalty and their pack duly trundled over the try line to present their number eight with the simple task of touching the ball down.
The conversion meant that Cobham had cancelled out an earlier penalty from Sam Hurley and led 7-3.
It was during a period of reduced numbers that Sutton scored their only try.
A well-rehearsed move from a ruck saw Ian Knott join the back line, he set free Dave Cook who provided Sam Hurley with the simple task of scoring in the corner.
The conversion was missed but Hurley landed a further penalty to nudge Sutton into a four-point lead.
However, Cobham charged back before half time with a further converted try from another powerful scrum on the stroke of half time to lead 14-11.
With the wind at their backs, Cobham kept Sutton penned in their own half, with some excellent kicking from hand by Paul Smedley.
Sutton lost Chris Hitchcock to the sin bin and Cobham were happy to take a further three points to lead by six.
Opportunities for the visitors were few and far between, Dave Cook ran 60m from inside the Sutton half but the Cobham defence just managed to recover the position.
Any lingering hopes that Sutton might have, disappeared when a Cobham catch and drive from a line out crossed the line and replacement Rob Fleming scored the try.
Smedley added the conversion as the final action of the game providing Cobham with a merited victory.
Runner: Chris Hitchcock tries his luck
It transpired later that Mike Blakeburn had played virtually all of the game with a broken bone in his hand and Steve Burton suffered a shoulder injury during the second half.
Burton had been impressive in the line out but Sutton’s outstanding player was Raynn Bruce for his ball carrying all afternoon as well as a memorable catch and a bullocking run of 35m in the first half.
Sutton & Epsom have now completed a third of their fixtures and have a respectable 25 points to show for their efforts.
However significant challenges are on the horizon with high-flying Chichester, Gravesend and Brighton to be faced over three consecutive weeks in late November and early December.
These games will be stern tests of Sutton’s courage and resources if their injury list continues to grow.
Next Saturday, Sutton host Beckenham, who lost to Chichester last Saturday, at Rugby Lane. Kick-off is at 2.30.
Team: Ian Knott, Guy Stuckey – Clarke, Dave Cook, Warren Steyn, Sam Hurley, Chris Hitchcock, Frankie Murray, Tariq El Khaldi, Phil Williams, Raynn Bruce, Felix Symonds, Steve Burton, Mike Blakeburn, Joe Ridgley, Shawn Renwick (capt.). Subs: Paul Webster, Dave Crowest, Steve Warnham.
Off-load: Warren Steyn finds Jo Ridgley
Knott this time: Ian Knott could not inspire Sutton & Epsom to victory
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