Brighton 39 Sutton & Epsom 22. Saturday 25th February. The last of Epsom and Sutton’s rearranged fixtures sadly fell on a weekend that not only featured the Six Nations but also a couple of stag weekends. Creativity was the byword for selection as 2 nd XV players, veterans of yesteryear, coaches and university students gathered at Waterhall for the formal introductions before taking on the Blues. In September at Rugby Lane the Black &
Whites enjoyed one of only two successes this campaign when they overcame Brighton 42-24. The south coast men gained a measure of revenge winning 39-22 which eased their fears of the drop but the result relegated S&E because remarkably at Bodicote Park Banbury had defeated second-placed Camberley.
The Sutton and Epsom XV included the veteran trio of Frankie Murray and the brothers Pointing, Chris and
Mickey, debutants Jordan Farrar and Alex Gerhard from the Swallows, students Jack Benton
and Taylor Gaye and coaches Steve Munford and Mark Lambert. Tom Brooker took the
armband and was the only remaining member of the pack from last Saturday’s Havant loss.
The clouds dispersed and the game started in sunshine but with a strong wind that was
illustrated as the Brighton kick off sailed out on the full. The majority of the crowd wisely took
advantage of the well-appointed clubhouse rather than braving the elements pitch-side for a
match of great significance for both clubs in terms of survival in this league. The hosts looked
to spread the ball from the outset and their back division with Onke Nesi to the fore was lively
and threatening. S&E tackled ferociously and the pack willingly took on the ball-carrying
After ten minutes winger Aled Edwards thought he had wriggled free but was brought back for
a foot in touch. The Waterhall woes were immediately abated when centre Arthur Robinson
scythed through the defence after sustained Brighton pressure to score. In the absence of the
redoubtable Sean O’Hagan scrum half Harry Alexander took over the kicking duties and made
light of the tricky wind to make it 7-0. Five minutes later the Sutton resources were further
stretched when Kyren Ghumra was forced off after a knock on the head when falling on the ball.
With no spare back on the bench Jordan Farrar went on the flank and Jack Butt stood in on the
wing. Despite the adversity the Black & Whites were tenacious in defence and the forwards
relished the set scrums with the experienced duo of Reid and Lambert winning penalties.
The Sussex men had to wait until the half hour to extend their lead. A well-worked lineout ploy
from 5 metres was thwarted but prop Billy Rolfe twisted and stretched for the line to score. The
conversion drifted wide as the hosts led 12-0. Sutton & Epsom brought on Hartpury University
prop Taylor Gaye for his debut and he made an immediate impact. The diminutive Dan Jones won
a penalty for a high tackle which was kicked into the corner. Though the lineout was lost excellent
scavenging by the pack regained possession and Taylor Gaye scored from short-range. The
conversion was blown wide but Sutton were on the board trailing 5-12. Confidence now surged
through the Black & White ranks and they were soon attacking in the Blues 22. With the interval
rapidly approaching the referee issued a yellow card to Billy Rolfe. At once Sutton looked to benefit
from their numerical advantage. The forwards got to within a yard under the posts before it was
spun wide. It appeared that Angus Findlay had scored in the corner but an excellent defensive
covering tackle dislodged the ball as the winger tried to touch down. Brighton cleared their lines
from the scrum and the referee concluded the first period with the Blues 12-5 up at the break.
If S&E were despondent at their failure to score before the interval you would not have noticed by
the way they started the second half. Robbie Martey caught a clearance on halfway and advanced
towards the 22. Captain Brooker kept up the attack and ball came to Dan Jones who jinked his
way to the line and passed to Frankie Murray who scored a try that rolled back the years. The conversion narrowly missed but Sutton were only 10-12 down with the extra man.
Before the travelling Rugby Lane faithful had time to dream of a remarkable victory they were awoken from
their reverie by an instant reply from the Waterhall men. Having secured a scrum on the 22 from
the restart the ball went out to Arthur Robinson who ran the perfect line to score his second and
Brighton’s third try. Harry Alexander added the extras for the 19-10 lead. Conditions deteriorated
rapidly as the clouds gathered, the rain fell and the temperature plummeted with half an hour
remaining on the clock.
The hosts began to turn the screw with two tries in as many minutes. First to benefit was
returning prop Billy Rolfe who collected his second of the afternoon after relentless pressure from
the Sussex men. Moments later Aled Edwards was touching down in the corner and the Black &
Whites were 29-10 adrift. Entering the final quarter the impartial observer might have thought that
the visitors may have run out of steam and the veterans made to suffer. The floodgates did not
open and contrary to all expectations S&E began their rearguard action. The next score was an
unlikely one when Brighton decided to kick a penalty with ten minutes remaining. Harry Alexander
effortlessly bisected the uprights for 32-10 leaving the visitors needing four scores. The task went
from uphill to climbing Everest in flip-flops when replacement Conor Scott sped in under the posts
finishing with aplomb. Harry Alexander converted for 39-10.
Then Tom Brooker gave a splendid example of leading from the front. Gathering the ball near
halfway he took the ball in to contact and drove back three defenders and broke through their
clutches and bolted towards the posts. He finished in style brushing aside the last tackler as if he
was Alex Dombrandt. Alex Mawdsley drop-kicked the conversion in a blink of an eye for 39-17.
Sutton now went in search of a bonus point and took the game to Brighton. Unfortunately scrum
half Austin Bell was forced off with an ankle injury and S&E shuffled the deck again. Undaunted by
this setback they invaded the opposition 22 again. Quick ball was spun wide and Alex Mawdsley
forced his way over. Whether he applied the coup de grace or the significant pressure was
supplied by Robbie Martey was immaterial as the referee signalled a try. Alex Mawdsley failed to
convert from the flank and the referee blew his whistle to end the game with Brighton victorious
The Blues were worthy winners. Their forwards carried aggressively and effectively and their backs
looked to run at every opportunity and had plenty of pace to exploit their somewhat makeshift
opponents. The bonus point win was most welcome as the hosts are still not clear of relegation. In
contrast this defeat condemned the visitors to the drop. However, the manner of defeat will be
cherished by the Rugby Lane supporters. The level of commitment, the tenacity and the bonus
point were highlights in a display overflowing with team spirit. Steve Munford gave an outstanding
performance in defence tackling all-comers. The many front row permutations were a constant
menace in the scrum. The side benefited greatly from the leadership on the pitch from not only
Tom Brooker but also the cadre of experienced players that filled their ranks. On the other end of
the scale, the youthful debutants Alex Gerhard, Jordan Farrar and Taylor Gayle put in huge shifts
and looked very comfortable at 1 st XV level which bodes well for the future.
Though the season has come to a premature end for Sutton & Epsom, followers of Brighton will
hope Wimbledon and Havant will reflect their lofty status and put Banbury to the sword unlike the
faltering Camberley so that the Blues stay put in Regional One South Central. Next Saturday S&E
entertain Maidenhead at Rugby Lane in the penultimate game of the season.
Sutton & Epsom
Robbie Martey, Kyren Ghumra, Steve Munford, Alex Mawdsley, Angus Findlay, Frankie Murray,
Austin Bell, Mark Lambert, Dan Jones, Joe Reid, Alex Gerhard, Jack Benton, Chris Pointing,
Jack Butt & Tom Brooker ©
Replacements: (all used) Mickey Pointing, Jordan Farrar & Taylor Gaye.
Max Morris ©, George Payne, Arthur Robinson, Onke Nesi, Aled Edwards, David Mcilwaine,
Harry Alexander, Billy Rolfe, Will Fitzpatrick, Andrew Rowlandson, Richard Neil, Milo Cawkwell,
George Orchard, Alex Havers & Angus North.
Replacements: James Trevis, Will Harvey and Conor Scott.