Rugby action at London Cornish and Sutton and Epsom

Cornish Collect Crucial Win on Heartbreak Hill


Sutton & Epsom 22 – London Cornish RFC 31 . Saturday 2nd March.

The fixture at the Richard Evans Memorial Playing Fields in November was notable for the
debut of Willem Ratu who scored a hat trick that helped Sutton & Epsom to a healthy 53-24
triumph. In the absence of the injured Taranaki Terror all those in the Cornish camp were hoping
that this would create a more level playing field as they continued their efforts to climb out of the
relegation abyss and get some traction from their victory over fellow strugglers Cobham in the last
round of fixtures. The Exiles made it two in a row as they gave their supporters another injection
of belief with a priceless bonus point win by 31-22 over Sutton.

The downpours in the week and more torrential rain led to a change in location for this
fixture. The teams relocated from the serene surroundings of Rugby Lane to the windswept
wastelands of Priest Hill. The hosts kicked off the match playing against the gusting wind and the
significant slope. At this stage of the campaign the coaches are unlikely to be paid the ultimate
divine compliment of selecting their full complement but London Cornish were delighted to field
their first choice back three who were to be significant contributors. At once the visitors had the
chance to open the scoring with a penalty. Michael Edworthy’s effort was blown off course and it
remained 0-0. Their dismay was short-lived, from the 22 drop out they secured possession and
spread it wide. Left wing Matt Hakes powerful touchline run was assisted by some weak tackling
as his determination saw him touch down in the corner. The challenging conversion drifted wide as
the Exiles led 5-0 within five minutes.

London Cornish sought to exploit the conditions with thoughtful kicking to keep Sutton &
Epsom on the defensive and penned in their 22. In their efforts to escape the hosts conceded
another penalty in front of the posts. The wind again came to Sutton’s rescue as it was becoming
increasingly evident that place-kicking was going to be an arduous task. On the quarter hour S&E
made their first significant contribution to proceedings. Running the ball with a penalty advantage
they knocked on with an overlap in the 22. They had a second chance as they kicked the penalty
to the corner but the Cornish won the line out. They were gifted a third chance as the ball was
touched down in goal for a Sutton scrum. It was third time extremely unlucky as they sauntered
blind for a definite score only to be halted by the whistle as they had offended at the scrummage.
The Sutton profligacy was instantly punished. The ball was chipped over the Black & White
defence in their 22. Covering fullback Tom Lennard lost his footing and was enveloped by the
Cornish who drove him over the line. From the 5-metre scrum the visitors shunted the Sutton pack
into reverse and Number 8 Conor Pearce applied the finishing touch and 10-0 to the Exiles. Five
minutes later there was a repeat performance. The kick into space saw the retreating Kyren
Ghumra struggling to gather the ball and it was only a last gasp dive that prevented a try. Another
5-metre scrum to the visitors but this time near the posts and the Sutton pack held the drive.
Variety is the spice of life and Ciaran Johnston released his backs and centre Peter Brogden waltz
in untouched. Simon Edworthy, grateful for a simpler conversion, added the extras for 17-0 after
thirty minutes.

A possible lifeline dangled tantalisingly before Sutton eyes as Mr Simon Matthews was left
prostrate on the pitch. After treatment from the physios the referee gingerly returned to the
vertical and was able to continue with the game. As much as the visitors were intelligently
exploiting the elements the hosts were being naïve as they kicked poorly to the back three and
attempted long passes on the wind. With the interval approaching London Cornish secured a
bonus point with their fourth try of the afternoon. Fly-half Michael Edworthy drifted across creating
space for inside centre Peter Brogden who presented his centre partner, captain George Kimmins,
with an easy run in under the posts. The conversion made it 24-0 to the visitors.

In the dying moments of the first half London Cornish had a wonderful opportunity to add
a fifth try but scrambling defence denied them as they dropped the ball with the line at their
mercy. The referee ended the half with the Exiles 24-0 up. All concerned were wondering just how
many points the slope and wind were worth. Would the missed kicks prove to be costly and could
Sutton & Epsom transform a lamentable first period performance into a rousing comeback?
Conditions temporarily deteriorated at the start of the second half as teeming rain was
added to the difficulties to be endured by the players. It was essential for the Black & Whites to
score early. Within five minutes Matt Whitaker was driving his way over the line. Mr Matthews
ruled that he had been held up over the line. The S&E disappointment was helped by the fact that
London Cornish were reduced to 14 as Number 8 Conor Pearce was carded for a high tackle. The
hosts took advantage of their numerical superiority and drove the Cornish pack off their own ball
and Matt Whitaker scored. Freddy Bunting added an impressive conversion from the flank and S&E
were up and running at 7-24. Mercifully the rain abated and moments later ceased. Sutton had
now emptied their bench with Messrs Mount, Pulvirenti and Rudder being replaced by the
triumvirate of Boaden, Jones and Elliott as they looked to reinvigorate their efforts.

At the end of the third quarter Sutton were in prime position to reduce the deficit but an
errant throw to the 5-metre lineout gifted Cornish a relieving scrum. It was the visitors’ turn to
have their clearance returned with meaning. Tom Lennard countered and combined with Ghumra
and Elliott to get to the corner. Sterling cover by Robert Mackay denied the score but the home
team pressed on. White line fever descended on the Black & White ranks and they were grateful to
be awarded a penalty. Finally, the pack forced its way over and Callum Gibson emerged as the
scorer. It was a fine reward for the prop on an afternoon when he had carried tirelessly and with
great effect. The kick from the extremities missed as Sutton trailed 12-24.

With the match entering the final 10 minutes the crucial moment came. London Cornish
had made a rare visit to the Sutton 22. The hosts looked to counter and exploit a generous
blindside. Cornish winger Matt Hakes gambled and won the lottery as he intercepted and strolled
in for the fifth try. Simon Edworthy bisected the uprights and suddenly the gap that had so
recently appeared bridgeable now seemed to be a gaping chasm as London Cornish led 31-12.
Though visibly deflated by the score it was not long before the Rugby Lane men roused
themselves for a grandstand finish. Firstly, Kyren Ghumra scored in the corner and anxious visitors
asked Sir how long remained. 31-17 with two minutes of regulation time to play. The drama
intensified as Rob Hegarty scored Sutton’s fourth try in time added on. Perhaps it was the lack of a
scoreboard at Priest Hill but the hosts’ arithmetic let them down. With the score 22-31 and a
conversion under the posts to come a successful kick would have secured a second bonus point.
However, a rapidly taken drop kick missed. But the Gods seemed to be favouring Sutton as they
were awarded a penalty on the final play of the game. Captain Bunting lined up his kick but it
drifted agonisingly wide.

The 31-22 win provided London Cornish with a significant boost in their bid for survival.
They will be hoping that Sutton can do them a favour by beating relegation rivals Cobham on 16 th
March when the campaign resumes. The Exiles deservedly won the match, they exploited the first
half advantage superbly and despite some anxious moments at the death it would have been
harsh if they had been denied a vital victory. For Sutton & Epsom there were far too many errors
that undermined their performance and it was only in the late rally that they demonstrated their
true worth. With three matches left for the Black & Whites they still have work to do to retain their status in Level 6 and they will be hoping that the extremes of the weather will not see them
relocated to Priest Hill in their two remaining home matches.

Sutton & Epsom
Lennard, Findlay, Rudder, Bunting ©, Ghumra, Bennion, Munford, Mount, Farrell, Gibson,
Glanville, McTaggart, Pulvirenti, Hegarty & Whitaker.
Replacements: Boaden, Jones & Elliott.

London Cornish
Mackay, Hakes, Kimmins ©, Brogden, Bromage, Edworthy, Johnston, Pellow, Cruz, Theobald, Carr,
McEwen, Fink, Webb, & Pearce.
Replacements: New, Sorgo-Mirosevic & Phoenix.

Photo credit: Robin Kennedy

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