Hackney Impress To Dent Sutton’s Title Ambitions


Hackney Women 32 Sutton & Epsom Women 17. Sutton & Epsom womens rugby had not played a match since their 8 th January victory at Hammersmith & Fulham. They had been frustrated by the weather when hosting Hampstead and then
endured the unexpected decision by table-toppers Battersea Ironsides to forfeit their fixture. The result was five weeks of competitive inactivity as they travelled to Hackney who were looking for revenge for the 22-5 defeat they suffered at the hands of S&E at Rugby Lane in November. The host’s honour was restored with a hard fought 32-17 victory over the Black & Whites.

Hackney kicked off on a gloomy but still Sunday afternoon thankfully free from rain. The
visitors failed to deal with the kick which would be a portent for things to come. Hesitation
from Sutton and pressure from Hackney saw the hosts turn over the ball to gain
possession in a prime position. S&E were under considerable strain defending scrums,
lineouts and penalties in their 22 as the Londoners pressed for the opening score.
Courageous defence against the rampant forwards delayed an inevitable score until it was
spun wide for fullback Rachel Castola to squeeze in at the corner. The challenging
conversion was missed but it was first blood to Hackney who led 5-0.
Sutton & Epsom went in search of a rapid reply forcing their opponents back into their 22.
An offside penalty was kicked to the corner for the 5-metre lineout. The disappointment of
losing the throw was immediately offset by a magnificent turnover. The backs were
released and Aegean Leech finished with aplomb in the corner despite the attention of
several defenders. With the scores level at 5-5 the Rugby Lane team prepared for the
restart. Once again they invited pressure on themselves by not dealing adequately with
the kick. In no time at all Hackney had the ball in their hands and took advantage of an
overlap with a clinical finish on the flank by winger Allie Nelkom to restore Hackney’s lead
at 10-5.
Sutton returned to the offensive with Beth Evans carrying powerfully. The referee’s whistle
became a regular feature with a particular penchant for offside. As the offences mounted
up the official issued a stern warning that the next infringement near the line would be
costly. True to his word he flourished a yellow card to give S&E numerical superiority. At
once the Black & Whites took advantage and Beth Evans, running an intelligent angle,
took the pass near the ruck and was unstoppable from close-range. Another conversion
fell short and it was all-square once more at 10-10.
The pendulum swung back with Hackney on the attack as their powerful pack provided
plenty of ball. The pressure was ceaseless from the hosts and the defence heroic by the
visitors. Twice players were held up over the line but the drop out clearance just initiated
another attack from Hackney. Finally, Louise Edwards scored under the posts and with the
conversion successful S&E trailed once more by 17-10. There were no further additions to
the score as both sides listened to the sagacious words of their coaches during the
interval. For the hosts it was a question of whether they could maintain their effort as they
were dominant in the scrum or whether the tremendous workload already put in by their
pack would see them fade in the latter stages. For the visitors they needed to reply once
again and return to parity on the scoreboard and start to impose themselves on the game.

The second period started with Aegean Leech on a one-woman mission to level the
scores. Taking the game by the scruff off the neck she took a quick tap penalty near
halfway and was only halted in the 22. The retreating defence was penalised again and
another Aegean Leech tap and go penalty saw her cross the whitewash. The conversion
was added and for the third time Sutton had levelled the scores. It was the perfect start to
the half but whether this was the turning of the tide remained to be seen.
The opening exchanges of the second period saw an outbreak of tactical kicking by both
teams eager to establish the territorial advantage to attack. It was Hackney who once
more took the lead. A tremendous break by Ella Harte put S&E on the back foot and it
needed superlative defensive tackling from fullback Abby Wynne and Beth Evans to
prevent the score. But the hosts would not be denied and Allie Nelkon collected her
second try of the afternoon to regain the advantage at 22-17. Thunderous tackling and
tremendous swarming pressure from Hackney buoyed by their tireless pack forced
handling errors by Sutton. This time the visitors could not reply and ten minutes later it
was the hosts who replied. Pouncing on a dropped ball the Londoners countered and the
increasingly prominent centre Nia Watson-Campbell forced her way over the line. Hackney
now had clear water and led 27-17.
The Black & Whites made every effort to get back on terms but the Hackney defence
stood firm and did not allow the visitors any further addition to their tally. In fact the only
additional score was from the hosts. Following a rather scrappy sequence of knock ons
near halfway centre Ella Harte gathered the ball and set off for glory. A wonderful
covering tackle in the corner by Zoe Smith denied the outside centre but her centre
partner in crime Nia Watson-Campbell was rewarded for her excellent supporting run with
her second try. That concluded the scoring and Hackney had deservedly won by 32-17.
It was a pulsating contest with nine tries between two evenly matched sides. Hackney had
the upper hand in the scrums and had the benefit of being able to play on the front foot
whereas S&E ball came on the retreat. Great credit must be given to the Hackney pack
who were relentless from the first minute to the last carrying the ball powerfully and
aggressively gaining those hard yards with flanker Camilla Turchetti quite outstanding.
The backs finished clinically with Allie Nelkon collecting a brace of tries but it was the
centre combination of Nia Watson-Campbell, who also scored twice, and Ella Harte that
ensured that their possession was put to good use.
For Sutton & Epsom there was much to be commended. Emily Grainger’s thunderous
tackling set the tone for the determined pack with Beth Evans was very prominent in the
loose. The talented back division did their utmost with limited possession with Aegean
Leech to the fore. The defence was exceptional near their own line with fullback Abby
Wynne making several try-saving tackles. Ultimately Hackney enjoyed the majority of the
territory and possession and made good that statistical advantage. Though this was a
disappointing result in terms of their title aspirations their chances for glory still lie in their
own hands and were aided by Wimbledon defeating Hammersmith & Fulham 31-14.
Sutton & Epsom return to Rugby Lane next Sunday 19 th February for the visit of local rivals
Wimbledon. The kick off will be at 2:30pm as the Black & Whites look to return to winning
ways and press on towards the Promised Land of Promotion in what is turning out to be a
most fascinating and competitive league.

Sutton & Epsom
Abby Wynne, Lucy Hoad, Aegean Leech, Olivia Lambe, Rachel Kinsella, Joe Evans, Zoe
Smith, Tia Jones, Harriet Forsyth, Beth Evans, Robyn Bloomfield, Isabelle Keith, Alice
Clarke, Bernadette Rees & Emily Grainger.
Replacements: Georgina Farrington, Natalie McCall, Charlotte Mahoney, Holly St George.
Rachel Castola, Alex Nelkon, Ella Harte, Nia Watson-Campbell, Caroline Mitchell, Katie
McAndrew, Flora Gibbons, Jessica Evans, Vanessa Riscado, Louise Edwards, Beth
Patterson, Zara-Louise O’Toole, Camilla Turchetti, Carol Anderson, & Zoe Durbin.
Replacements: Kate Davidson, Ka Ling, Diane Anstis, Victoria Bibby, Justine Despins &
Megan Hollyman.

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