Somewhat resigned by Reigatians


Sutton & Epsom RFC 21 – Old Reigatian 38. Saturday 16th December.

In the reverse fixture Old Reigatian finally subdued a stubborn Sutton and Epsom 35-29 after a game of
fluctuating fortunes. This time the Black & Whites were enjoying a run of five victories whilst the
visitors were lying third and snapping at the heels of the leaders. For the hosts it was a red-letter
day for hooker Chris Farrell who was celebrating his 100 th 1st XV league appearance. In stark
contrast Ben Green was making his debut for S&E and was one of four changes to the starting
line-up. Old Reigatian continued their upward trajectory with a very impressive 38-21 triumph.

Freddy Bunting kicked off with the wind favouring the hosts. Moments later he was impressively
putting his team onto the front foot with a probing 50-22 kick. It was a fast and furious opening
ten minutes as each side were eager to gain the early advantage. It was most competitive at the
breakdown and both defences held firm. On the quarter hour Lawrence Elliott was adjudged to
have obstructed the OR kicker as the ball rolled off the back of the pitch. The penalty was kicked
into the corner. Sterling Sutton defence halted the visitors but they were brought back for another
penalty. The second attempt improved on the dress rehearsal as a perfectly executed catch &
drive saw prop Ciaran Nestor touch down for the first try of the afternoon. Lucas Overtoom
stroked over the conversion for a 7-0 lead for OR.

England Rugby Regional 2 South East table

Top image: Chris Farrell playing in his 100th 2st XV league match. Credit Robin Kennedy.

Though the hosts pressed hard to get back on terms with a couple of visits to their opponents’ 22
the men from the Geoffrey Knight Fields stood tall with an impregnable defence. S&E got to the
line but were denied the chance to level the score as they lost possession at the critical juncture.
In fact it was the team from Reigate who lifted the temporary siege and scored their second try
with their second visit to the Sutton 22. On the half hour mark a sweeping play with great
continuity provided by adept passes out of tackles saw Reigatian centre Gareth Stephens chip over
the defence re-gather the ball and complete a stylish score. Though the conversion never
threatened the uprights Old Reigatian had a healthy12-0 advantage.

Sutton & Epsom were in need of a score to get a foothold in the game and despite Willem Ratu
charging ahead like Jehu support was not at hand to benefit from the break. Sutton did not aid
their chances by conceding penalties and from one given for a high tackle the Reigate side kicked
into the corner. Despite spoiling the lineout the loose ball was touched down in the host’s in-goal
area resulting in a 5-metre scrum to OR. A fine tackle by Josh Pulvirenti and a knock on appeared
to have saved S&E but once more the referee brought the sides back to an earlier infringement by
the Rugby Lane XV. Following another scrummage and multiple carries Max Coyle popped over
from short-range. Lucas Overtoom added the extras for a 19-0 lead.

A thoroughly downcast home team restarted and promptly conceded a soft score. The kick was
taken and returned with a vengeance through apologetic tackles. Gareth O’Brien’s attempt to clear
the ball from his 22 was impeded and the voracious hands of the visitors collected the loose ball. It
was relayed to lock Jack Baart who powered in at the corner. The touchline conversion bisected
the uprights and Old Reigatian led 26-0 with a bonus point already in their back pocket. Timely
words were uttered under the Sutton posts and the hosts desperately attempted to get a score
before the interval but to no avail. OR turned around 26-0 ahead leaving S&E with an Everest-like
challenge to maintain their winning run.

It is the modern vogue for coaches and pundits alike to highlight the conversion rate for teams
when visiting their opponents’ 22. For sorry Sutton the first half recorded 0% whilst Old Reigatian
were on 100%. In addition the normally faultless Bunting boot had erred twice. The 26-0 deficit
may not have accurately reflected the balance of the game but it highlighted that one side was
ruthlessly clinical whilst the other was most profligate. The Black & Whites held back on making
changes at the break no doubt planning to get an early score to exert maximum pressure on the
visitors. They would have to reverse the trend of the first period and take every opportunity to
score if they were going to get anything out of this fixture.

An early score for the hosts was not only essential to make a contest of the match but also for
Sutton’s self-belief. However, within five minutes the visitors were crossing the whitewash for a
fifth time. A kick through, a ricochet and a helpful assist from a Black & White boot gifted Gareth
Stephens his second try. Despite the missed conversion Old Reigatian looked over the horizon and
far away leading 31-0. Sutton & Epsom rang the changes as Alex Mount returned to the fray and
Ross Parsons had his first taste of action replacing Chris Ballard. A few minutes later George
London was the last pair of fresh legs as Isaac Lea took a breather. Two penalties on the bounce
to the home team propelled the Rugby Lane team to a lineout 10 metres out. Though they were
thwarted this time another penalty meant they had a second chance from a 5-metre lineout. The
forwards controlled the ball and the try was scored. It could not have been a more popular try as
it was the outstretched arm of Chris Farrell on his 100 th appearance who touched down. Freddy
Bunting added the conversion for 7-31.

Ten minutes later Sutton & Epsom were again benefiting from Reigatian indiscipline as they kicked
a penalty into the corner. From the five-metre lineout the visitors defiant defence thwarted initial
attempts until Alex Mount side-stepped would be tacklers to score. Freddy Bunting added the
extras as the home crowd dared to dream of a miracle at 14-31. Those dreams swiftly became a
nightmare as the Black & Whites conceded an interception try just outside their 22 a minute later.
Max Coyle had his second try and Lucas Overtoom his fourth conversion and the visitors had the
healthy cushion again leading 38-14.

Sutton were not finished and it was Alex Mount who scored again. If the prop’s first try owed
much to nimble footwork his second was from brute force and determination as he muscled his
was over the line. Freddy Bunting did the necessary to trail 21-38. With ten minutes remaining
there began the game within the game as the Black & Whites went in search of bonus points as
one more try would secure at least one consolation point. Though the hosts dominated territory
and possession they failed to add to their tally. The resolute Old Reigatian defence were in no
mood for any charitable Christmas presents for their opponents. The final whistle concluded the
contest with OR victors by the commanding margin of 38-21 and excellent value for their success.
Old Reigatian played splendidly with a ruthless efficiency. Once again their three-quarters were of
the highest quality playing with confidence, fluency and an enviable slickness with Max Coyle a
constant threat. Their pack had the edge in the set scrum and were disruptive at the breakdown
with Finlay Lock, like all good 7s, a constant irritation. In defence they tackled forcefully and
closed down Sutton rapidly. However, it was their ability to convert pressure in the 22 into points
that was the key difference. For S&E too often their breaks by Willem Ratu et al lacked support.
Most frustratingly speculative offloads were lured into the hands of their opponents as if they were
victims of sirens without an Odysseus to rescue them. The result had far more to do with the
quality of the play of the Old Reigatian team than the failings of Sutton and the win has put the
visitors very much in the title race.

The league enters its festive break and returns with Sutton’s trip to Battersea Ironsides on 6 th
January. If one is looking for a barometer for how competitive this league has become there is no
other league in England that is topped by a team with four defeats but in Regional 2 South East
there are four clubs with a nine-four win-loss record. For S&E lest we forget that their campaign
has been transformed with five wins from the last six starts and the Rugby Lane faithful should
approach 2024 with cautious optimism.

Sutton & Epsom:
Gareth O’Brien, Matt Symonds, Willem Ratu, Tom Lennard, Lawrence Elliott, Freddy Bunting ©,
Tom Boaden, Chris Farrell, Alex Mount, Ewan McTaggart, Ben Green, Isaac Lea, Josh Pulvirenti &
Rob Hegarty.
Replacements: Callum Gibson, George London & Ross Parsons.

Old Reigatian:
Conor Woods, Harrison Mitchell, Gareth Stephens, Max Coyle, Finn Coyle, Lucas Overtoom, Alex
Skinner, Ciaran Nestor, Harry Plowman, Toby Collister, Oli Brooks, Jack Baart, Sam Foreman,
Finlay Lock & Ryan Travers.
Replacements: David Niven, Ed Cox & Ben Holder.

© 2021-2022. No content may be copied without the permission of Epsom and Ewell Times Ltd.