Alleyians in action

Sutton and Epsom’s Alley of dreams dashed in the end.


Old Alleynians 29 Sutton & Epsom RFC 25. Saturday 30th September.

For Sutton and Epsom supporters with good memories, and multiple miles on the clock, they will recall opening three consecutive league campaigns from 1989-90 onwards against Old Alleynians. However, 3rd November 2012, in S&E’s league winning season, was the last time that the two teams met at Dulwich Common with the hosts shading it 18-17. For Saturday’s clash the Black & Whites welcomed back wingers Kyren Ghumra and Robbie Martey which meant that the Rugby Lane team no longer resembled Alf Ramsey’s World Cup winners. It was another thrilling chapter in the story of this season with Old Alleynians triumphing 29-25.

      Freddy Bunting kicked off in front of a miniscule crowd, no doubt affected by the rail strike, making the very busy roads in the environs even more congested. Thankfully the numbers grew throughout the afternoon and they were rewarded with an exhilarating game. A perfectly flighted kick descended just outside the host’s 22 and was followed by a resolute Jack Benton tackle. OAs went wide but conceded a penalty. Freddy Bunting accepted the opportunity to give his team the early 3-0 lead.

The host’s reply was instantaneous. The first of many sumptuous offloads by the Alleynians had them invading the visitor’s 22 and a kick ahead gave them an attacking lineout. With clinical efficiency hooker Rory Simpson forced his way over for the first try of the game. Henry Dewing’s touchline conversion went awry but OAs were 5-3 up.

      Sutton & Epsom were equally rapid in their riposte. Declining a penalty shot at goal they went in search of the premium points with a kick to the corner with the attacking lineout to follow. Matt Whitaker secured the throw and the S&E pack was initially halted but a second surge carried Josh Glanville over the line for a very similar score to their opponents. Captain Bunting made light of the kick from the flank to restore Sutton’s lead to 10-5. Old Alleynians pressed hard for the next score. Their swarming defence and high tempo game pressured the Rugby Lane team into errors. The visitors survived a charged down in their 22 but later a mistimed lineout created a turnover with fatal consequences. The home team ruthlessly exploited an overlap for Will Malins to score the first of his trio of tries. Henry Dewing bisected the uprights to put the Dulwich-based club into a 12-10 lead. As the first quarter ended OAs, tighthead prop Tom Weightman offered sagely advice to his teammates at the restart: “Boys they cannot exit let’s play territory”.   

Within five minutes it looked as if OAs were about to extend their lead from a 5-metre lineout. Defiant defence stopped the advancing forwards and when it went wide a desperate grasp from Michael Bennion prevented the backs applying the coup de grâce. From the ensuing scrum a stunning break from Matt Whitaker supported by Kyren Ghumra took play into the host’s half. A penalty for a high tackle was advanced to the 22. Superb play saw Kyren Ghumra to 5 metres out but Jack Howes in support could not hold on to the pass with the undefended line awaiting him. The error was not costly as the Black & White pack won a penalty at the scrum. Opting for tap penalty from 5 metres George London got to within a metre before transferring the ball to Chris Farrell to score. The conversion hit the post but Sutton led 15-12.  

    Old Alleynians then dominated the remainder of the first period with two tries in the last ten minutes. The first score was Will Malins’ second as he got the ball in space and finished with pace and power in the corner. Though the conversion failed the lead had changed hands once more with OAs 17-15 to the good. With the wind in their sails the southeast Londoners were soon pressing for another score. Desperate defence held up the hosts over the line. The goal-line drop out was taken by the hosts who laid siege to the Sutton line. A diving Ghumra interception denied a try but soon after Will Malins turned provider with a wonderful offload to create a try for Number 8 Tom Grahamslaw. Henry Dewing concluded the first period with his second conversion of the afternoon for a 24-15 lead. The teams turned around with a bonus point already secure in Old Alleynians’ back pocket for the four fabulous first half tries.

        The contest resumed, the tempo increased and the chances to score multiplied exponentially. Quite remarkably there followed thirty minutes of end-to-end rugby with numerous chances but no additional scores. As one matchday photographer mused both XVs were specialising in try avoidance. The catalogue of close calls began with that man Malins once more to the fore. The Sutton defence dawdled by the touchline and the winger manufactured a kick ahead and from nothing the ball was rolling over the try-line with a couple of Alleynians vying for the glory. However, they were denied by the diving Sutton lock Josh Glanville, who used every inch of his frame, to rescue S&E. A few minutes later Kyren Ghumra was sprinting clear in the wide open spaces with a try beckoning before his errant pass sailed high into touch. Then OAs pounced on a ball dropped by the visitors and a breakaway score looked a certainty. But a backpedalling Bunting and Bennion prevented the dramatic score.  

     Sutton’s cause was not aided when Matt Whitaker departed for a yellow card as a result of cumulative offences. Old Alleynians kicked into the corner hoping to immediately take advantage of their numerical superiority. The ball was claimed and spun wide but white-line fever overwhelmed fullback Henry Dewing and Rob Hegarty scythed him down a metre short with expectant support on the outside. Sutton then took over the ‘nearly but not quite’ mantle. Reminiscent of the denouement of the Battersea game the previous round they hammered against the line under the posts. Herculean heroics by the SE21 outfit forced S&E to seek the alternative route via the backs. They were denied by a marvellous cover tackle on Kyren Ghumra in the corner. After all the thrills and spills the next score was the much more mundane Bunting penalty to reduce the Old Alleynians’ lead to 24-18.     

  Hardly had the crowd had time to digest that Sutton and Epsom were within a score before they rose to applaud Will Malins’ hat trick. It was another excellent finish and a deserved reward for an outstanding performance on the wing. Though the conversion missed with the lead 29-18 with only a couple of minutes remaining of normal time it appeared to be the match-winning moment. However, the Black & Whites were not done and we were able to bear witness to another episode of their long-running Soap “Life On The Opposition Line”. The Alleynian defence had been robust all game and were eager for another titanic tussle under their posts. After very careful consideration following numerous carries the referee awarded S&E a try. Chris Farrell emerged from the pile of bodies to claim his second of the afternoon.  

     Freddy Bunting’s simple conversion meant Sutton trailed 25-29 creating a chaotic conclusion. Both sides decided to run the ball at every opportunity. Henry Dewing thought he had finally shut the door on the impertinent opponents when he chipped ahead but the bounce did not favour him and the game was still in the balance.

Though Sutton and Epsom threw the ball from one side to the other they could make little headway against the voracious tackling of the Alleynians. With time up OAs gratefully kicked the ball from the paddock at their first opportunity to collect a thoroughly deserved bonus point win. The Malins hat trick was the obvious highlight but the Old Alleynian XV were excellent with lock Ben Osuntokun epitomising their performance. The Number 4 secured lineout possession, carried to great effect in the loose and was prominent in defence. For S&E they probably created more chances than in any other game this season but could not find that cutting edge. Kyren Ghumra was a tad ring rusty in his first outing of the season but was still a prominent threat. The hosts were good value for their win as they managed to play at a faster tempo, were aggressive in defence and kept attacks going with dextrous offloads and excellent support running. 

      The league has a weekend off before resuming on Saturday 14th October when Medway visit Rugby Lane to resume hostilities in this most competitive of leagues. 

     Sutton & Epsom:   Michael Bennion, Kyren Ghumra, Ciaran Mohr, Freddy Bunting ©, Robbie Martey, Gareth O’Brien, Chris Ballard, Will Lloyd, Jack Howes, Callum Gibson, Jack Benton, Josh Glanville, George London, Rob Hegarty & Matt Whitaker.    

Replacements: (all used) Tariq Al Khaldi, Chris Farrell & Ross Parsons.  

 Old Alleynians   Henry Dewing, Will Malins, Will Foster, Robert Outram, Tom Vogel, Andrew Jones-Davies, Tristam Holden, Richard Garrett, Rory Simpson, Tom Weightman, Ben Osuntokun, Will Hinchcliffe, Chris Thatcher, Tyreece Asamoah, Tom Grahamslaw.   

Replacements: (all used) Charles Thompson, James Mair & Tom Williams.   

Image: Old Alleyian forward in another match C. Old Alleyian RFC website

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