Following the disappointment of last season’s relegation Sutton & Epsom RFC had a stern test in
their Regional 2 South East opener with a trip to Reeds Weybridge. The hosts are one of the
country’s most upwardly mobile clubs with six promotions in the last eight campaigns whilst they
finished finished third at the last time of asking. There was some compensation for missing out on
their habitual climb up the rugby pyramid. An excellent cup run ended in an 18-3 defeat to league
rivals Battersea Ironsides at Saracens’ StoneX Stadium in the final of the inaugural Papa John’s
Regional 2 South Plate. For the Black & Whites it was their first league encounter with the men
from Whiteley Village. S&E welcomed debutants Chris Ballard, Kean Orchard and Max Russell to
the 1 st XV whilst, on the other end of the scale, it was a red-letter-day for Will Lloyd as the veteran
prop made his 100 th 1 st XV league appearance. Unfortunately, Sutton failed to open their account
at the first time of asking as Reeds Weybridge deservedly won by 27-12.
On a magnificent summer’s afternoon, with a cricket match in progress on the other side of
the trees, S&E’s new captain, Freddy Bunting, initiated proceedings kicking down the modest slope
with a gentle breeze in his face. The hosts completely dominated the opening fifteen minutes.
They imposed their tempo and pattern on the game. After an initial penetrative carry by a forward
or two the ball was spun wide. Despite the territory and possession the forward bursts were
modest rather than devastating. Sutton survived a quick tapped penalty from the alert Ollie Palmer
but having cleared their lines incurred their first penalty to the new experimental tackle laws. A
probing kick to the corner gave RW a great attacking platform. The first assault was repelled by a
Matt Whitaker tackle but swift recycling saw the ball swung blind and an overlap was created for
lock Cameron Goodwin to stride home. Jack Jesty added the extras with a sweetly struck
conversion from the flank for a 7-0 lead.
Buoyed by the opening score on five minutes the Hersham men looked to stamp their
authority on the game and extend their advantage. Despite the next ten minutes being one-way
traffic the hosts and spectators were frustrated by the stop-start nature of the proceedings. Errors
were met with a bountiful whistle as infringements and rustiness were not excused by Referee
Wright. A second try for RW seemed inevitable as Coriolanian Sutton defence was required to hold
their line. The ball was sent wide for an inevitable score but a diving Michael Davies intercepted a
pass with a catch more familiar to cricket than rugby. The frustrated hosts conceded a penalty and
the visitors cleared from under their posts.
Belatedly S&E had some possession and immediately put it to great effect. Fluent handling
saw them arrive for their first visit into the alien 22. Another penalty was awarded and Bunting
kicked to the corner. Before the lineout was taken prop Alex Mount was replaced by Tom Boaden.
From the throw a well-executed lineout saw the mass of Black & White shirts bundle over the line.
Rob Hegarty emerged from the pile to claim the try. Freddy Bunting’s touchline conversion drifted
wide as Reeds led 7-5. Their followed a period of dominance from the men from Rugby Lane. The
visitors mimicked their opposition by failing to add to their total despite the monopoly of territory
and possession. Though they were unfortunate that when Ben Tame crossed the whitewash from
another lineout the referee was unsighted and gave the only decision available to her and Reeds
had a relieving drop out. However, the visitors only had themselves to blame for failing to secure
the lead. They were turned over near the line and conceded a penalty with a try at their mercy. It
was the turn of RW to show the virtues of Horatio on his famous bridge.
Sutton’s profligacy was punished in the 40 th minute. Chris Ballard’s pass was impeded at
the ruck and the loose ball was poached. Captain Bunting made an excellent tackle to stop the try
but the second wave saw hooker Rhys Day score despite another thunderous tackle. Jack Jesty
added the conversion to stretch the lead to 14-5. There was eight additional minutes to the half
and Sutton spent more time in the far 22 but to no avail as the sides went into the interval with
Reeds Weybridge 14-5 to the good.
Naturally Sutton and Epsom were desperate for the opening score of the second period. But within a
minute it was the boot of Jesty that added an early penalty from in front of the posts for a healthy
advantage of 17-5. The visitors played at a higher tempo but still struggled to be clinical as they
tried to get back into the game. Frequent blasts of the whistle impaired both teams until the
Hersham side were offered another opportunity to extend their lead. For the only occasion in the
game Jack Jesty erred and S&E’s task was not made any harder. Solid defence rebuffed the Black
& Whites as Gareth O’Brien’s scything run was halted by the offence of crossing. Reeds Weybridge
then gave the visitors a lesson in scoring. From a period of sustained pressure and patient ball
retention blindside Joe Wastie rounded off the attack. Normal service resumed from Jack Jesty and
RW led by the sizeable margin of 24-5.
Sutton and Epsom needed a rapid reply and it came from the most familiar source. An alert Chris
Ballard took a quick tap penalty then the ball was spread wide and S&E threatened again but this
time Matt Whitaker was on hand to score. Freddy Bunting eased over the conversion to trail 12-24.
For Reeds’ Captain Herbie Finn there was not the standard scalding vituperation that often follows
these moments but the sagacious advice to his troops that the game was not over. The Black &
Whites needed to maintain the pressure and add to this score to create doubt in the minds of their
opponents. However, careless penalties were conceded, the ball was cleared and any flames of
recovery were extinguished by the commendably calm game management of the hosts.
In the last five minutes Referee Wright brandished a yellow card, going about the task with
a mortician’s lofty detachment from the irksome job in hand. Reeds would have to play out the
game with 14 but is was too late to have a telling impact as Joe Wastie went from player to
spectator. After five minutes of time added on the hosts were awarded another penalty and the
assured Jack Jesty bisected the uprights to conclude proceedings with Reeds Weybridge victorious
to the tune of 27-12.
Reeds deserved their victory. Their lineout provided quality possession, their forwards
carried effectively and they played at pace. Through notable absentees in their ranks they perhaps
lacked that telling intervention in the back division to punch holes in the defence but they will not
be overtly concerned having taken the points. Unlike Sutton and Epsom they opted to kick simple penalties and kept the opposition at arm’s length. The hosts played with an excellent tempo and to their
familiar pattern and imposed themselves on the game in the first quarter. They should have
gained more than their solitary goal but early season rustiness will no doubt be replaced by clinical
efficiency in the weeks to come. Their defence was resolute and their game management in the
last quarter meant there was going to be no famous Sutton comeback.
For the visitors it was a delight to see the return of Matt Whitaker. Sutton and Epsom without Whitaker
would be like Hamlet without the Prince and for the umpteenth time the opposition declared him
the pick of the S&E bunch. Debutant Chris Ballard at 9 impressed with not only his service but also
his ability to exploit the gaps. It was not for want of effort that centurion Will Lloyd failed to be on
the winning side. He was rock solid in the scrum, made his carries and offloads as well as a crucial
intervention on the line that prevented a Reeds try. Neither side benefited from the frequency of
the stoppages but the Black & Whites failed to play with the fluency that was demonstrated in pre-
season. One feels a victory would transform their demeanour.
Next Saturday 9th September league rugby returns to Rugby Lane with a 3pm home fixture
against Beckenham RFC all are most welcome to attend.
Sutton & Epsom:
Michael Bennion, Max Russell, Michael Davies, Freddy Bunting ©, Ciaran Mohr, Gareth O’Brien,
Chris Ballard, Alex Mount, Chris Farrell, Will Lloyd, Kean Orchard, Josh Glanville, Ben Tame, Rob
Hegarty & Matt Whitaker.
Replacements: (all used)
Tom Boaden, Ewan McTaggart and Ross Parsons.
Brad Robbins, Kitan Ojo, Josh Clark, Billy Maddock, Jack Grady, Jack Jesty, Ollie Palmer, Lennan
Day, Rhys Day, Riley Milsom, Cameron Goodwin, Herbie Finn ©, Joe Wastie, Lewis Jones, Michael
Replacements: (all used)
William Scott, Shannon Fullen and Peter Daverns.