Havant 27 – 31 Sutton & Epsom

Havant leave themselves too much of a hill to climb – Just!

by Rugby  Reporter

A four try haul was not enough to end Sutton & Epsom’s winning streak.

Havant leave themselves too much of a hill to climb - Just!

This group of Havant players are just starting to understand that they really can be a force to be reckoned with in this league, but it was their hesitancy in the opening period that allowed another close game to get away.

In the second half they threw the proverbial ‘kitchen sink’ at the men from Sutton but were left feeling what ‘might have been’ rather than ending Sutton’s 6 match winning streak.

The Londoners showed that they were good value for those wins and play an exciting and expansive style of rugby. Throwing the ball wide and using their talented backs to good effect.

The game started well for the visitors who were able to immediately put the home side on the back foot and very nearly scored in corner as Rob Paterson made a dash for the line, unfortunately he was injured in the process and took no further part in the game, replaced by Grant Morris. This required a reshuffle of the backs with Ben Brierley pushing out to the wing.

Sutton recorded the first points with their outside centre breaking wide to score a converted try.

Havant hit back almost immediately through Skipper Joel Knight as he blasted through under the posts to level the scores and it was the visitors who took the lead through a well taken penalty by Knight.

Havant were firing, but not on all cylinders and unforced handling errors at crucial moments meant that they were struggling to gain any real momentum. Sutton were playing much the better rugby at this stage and were happy to force the tempo. Their rangy outside centre picked up a good try as he ran through the Havant defence too easily  and it was Sutton that scored again on the stroke of half-time through a catch and drive at the lineout.

Half-time: Sutton & Epsom 17 Havant 10

With Havant still struggling to get to grips with Sutton’s fast paced style of play the home side score a fourth try to secure the try bonus point as their right wing found space.

Havant piled more pressure on themselves through a Yellow Card to Dan Munden for a deliberate knock-on and Sutton took full advantage of the extra man as they drove over for a try at the ensuing lineout.

At this stage you would have thought the game should be over as a contest but Havant were not prepared to lie down. For the next 25 minutes they laid siege to the Sutton line and threw wave after wave of runners into the Sutton defence.

Niall Copeland in his first game back this season was on hand in the centres to pick up the first of his two tries after backs and forwards had combined well to create the opportunity.

With the front five driving relentlessly deep into the home 22 replacement Lock Tim Miller, with his first touch, found a gap and powered over from the base of a ruck.

Time was against Havant but with Sutton looking punch drunk the opportunity for at least a bonus point was there to play for and as they continued to drive hard around the fringes with backs and forwards sharing the workload – eventually Sutton ran out of defenders and Copeland was able to grab his second score as he powered over Havant’s fourth try. Knight added the conversion and Havant had salvaged 2 points.

Havant’s Skipper Knight felt that this was another game where the lack of an 80 minute performance had been his sides undoing.

“Sutton and Epsom are a good side – possibly the best we have played this year but we were just not firing on all cylinders in the first half. We want to be competing at the top end of this league and to do that we have to be able to produce consistent performances week in week out.”

“They deserved the win today, just, because they put the points on the board early in the game and we were then chasing it. We were very unlucky to lose Rob so early – he looked really threatening in that minute he was on the field!”

“Next time out we play Basingstoke – that will a tough encounter and if we don’t play for the full 80 we will come off second best – I imagine it will be an interesting week or two in training!”