The season’s final curtain
Sutton & Epsom RFC 34 v Bracknell 24. Saturday 11th March.
The modern league fixture list has a marvellous symmetry as it ends against the opponent one
played on the opening day of the season. Way back in September that meant a journey to Lily Hill
Park to play Bracknell for the first time since the 2009-10 season. A lot of players have crossed the
whitewash since then, and too many of them have been S&E’s opponents, and 22 games later the
season has ended. Perhaps the omens were not so favourable on Day 1 as once again as with
those former times the Black & Whites were facing the denouement of the campaign having
already been relegated from Level 5. On 10 th April 2010 the team bid a fond farewell by thrashing
North Walsham 55-15 and on this occasion Sutton & Epsom put in a rousing performance to sign
off with a 34-24 triumph over Bracknell.
The game certainly had the feeling of the end of an era as James Caddy led out the side for his
allegedly last appearance. Joining the stalwart back row in the departure lounge were George
Drye, Sam Hurley and Jamie See, all of whom have been superb servants of the club and were
instrumental in the recent rise to National 2. In addition, it was certainly a red-letter day for Chris
Pointing as he celebrated his 100 th 1 st XV league appearance.
Despite the aforesaid reasons for one last Herculean effort S&E started the match in the worst
possible manner. The unfathomable slow start that has become the byword of this season reared
its ugly head again. In front of a crowd in excess of 250 Bracknell ruthlessly exposed the early
Sutton frailties. The opening ten minutes hinted at an unpalatable drubbing for the Black & Whites.
The outstanding Bracknell Number 8 Ken Hodgson was rampaging round Rugby Lane and soon
scythed through the defence to set up Simon Bayliss for a try in the corner. Moments later the
backtracking Robbie Martey cut out an assist but was shown a yellow card. With the man
advantage the Berkshire men went blind exploiting another defensive oversight and Simon Bayliss
strolled in for his second. On this occasion Ollie Radford added the conversion for 12-0.
As the Fab Four might have considered that the fairy tale ending to their careers was being
penned by the Brothers Grimm Sutton scored. Freddy Bunting intercepted a pass in his own half
and ran it back. He added the conversion for S&E to trail 7-12. The Rugby Lane men had woken
from their slumber and began to defend with urgency. The Bracknell backs who had enjoyed time
and space in the first quarter were being pressed on the gain line and all over the pitch Sutton
tackled with a ferocity and zeal that lifted the crowd. Robbie Martey returned and was soon on the
action making a vital mark on a dangerous cross-field kick. A couple of infringements and the
Bunting boot put the hosts in the corner for a 5-metre lineout. The ball was secured and the pack
did the necessary and George London scored. Freddy Bunting made light of the challenging
conversion and the Black & Whites led 14-12.
What had looked like a relaxing end of season jaunt for the visitors had been transformed and the
hosts had not finished. On the half hour the S&E pack once more lined up for another 5-metre
lineout. Lightning was to strike twice and with meritorious efficiency Will Lloyd forced his way over.
Freddy Bunting thumped over the conversion as the jubilant crowd roared their appreciation for
the 21-12 lead. Aged followers tried to recall if they had seen their team lead at the break. The Lily
Hill Park team rather taken aback by the effrontery of three scores conceded without reply
threatened to end the half as it had begun. Scrum half Franklin Lewis took a quick penalty 40
metres out. Desperate defence saw Sutton fling themselves on a loose ball but a knock on gave
Bracknell a scrum 15 metres out under the posts. From this prime platform to attack Ben Tame
and Jamie See made crucial tackles before Ken Hodgson was held up over the line. Five minutes
later the referee drew the first half to a close when Ollie Radford’s promising run ended when he
was bundled into touch. Sutton turned around 21-12 to the good after a Jekyll and Hyde
performance in the first period.
The second half got under way with the visitors having the advantage of the wind and keen to be
the first to add to their tally on the scoreboard. An early Bracknell break was followed by a probing
kick that was gathered by a wonderful sliding take by Robbie Martey 5 metres from his line.
Having cleared the ball Sutton continued their fine form of the first period. The hosts spread the
ball wide after powerful carries by the forwards and forced the visitors onto the defensive. Both
sides were showing great defensive resolve as thunderous tackling all over the pitch thwarted the
best attacking efforts of all concerned. The match ebbed and flowed until a long clearance from
Freddy Bunting was taken near the touchline on halfway. The initial chaser was too easily stepped
and the defensive support was inadequate. A surging run down the touchline and a simple pass
inside saw lock George Jupp score. Ollie Radford impressively bisected the uprights as Bracknell
There was hardly any time for the crowd to contemplate the two-point deficit before the next
score. And what a score it was by Robbie Martey. Any self-doubt in the Black & White ranks was
instantly extinguished as the winger jinked and weaved his way through would be tacklers and
outpaced the cover to score Sutton’s try of the season. The conversion drifted wide as the hosts
led 26-19. Next it was Jamie See’s turn to sidestep his way down the pitch and the Rugby Lane
team were awarded a penalty. Wisely they opted for the kick at goal and Freddy Bunting extended
the lead to 29-19. Sutton had a ten-point lead with ten minutes left on the clock.
Perhaps the largest roar of the day greeted Chris Pointing coming off the bench for his 100 th 1 st XV
league appearance. There have been too many near misses and eleventh hour tragedies this
season for the Black & Whites and the crowd urged on the team to dig deep. The XV responded in
great style. Ross Parsons made a break and the pack powered in behind him to advance the ball
to the Bracknell line. It was the Berkshire men’s turn to show superb defence and frustrate the
Surrey men by holding them up over the line. However, Sutton gathered the drop out and
countered. The ball went wide to replacement Ciaran Mohr who finished with aplomb squeezing in
at the corner he stretched for the line to score despite a superb covering tackle. S&E led 34-19 as
the game entered time added on.
There was no let up in the action as Sutton again attacked. Even in the opposition 22 the hosts
tackled as if they were on their own line as they denied them any space to counter. In the end it
was a kick and chase by Noah Cannon that almost secured a fourth try and a bonus point for the
Lily Hill Park team. Once again Robbie Martey was on hand to touch down. In was a temporary
respite as moments later Noah Cannon decided on a more direct approach. He sped down the
blindside delivered a jolting palm off and scored in the corner. The conversion drifted wide and Mr
Foster blew the final whistle and Sutton had won 34-24.
It was a rousing end to a disappointing season and a fitting farewell to Messrs Caddy, Drye, Hurley
& See. It was the best Sutton performance of the season in a match where Bracknell started in
irresistible style and threatened to run away with the game. For the visitors Ken Hodgson was at
the heart of everything and a constant threat. For S&E it was a wonderful team performance. The
commitment to the cause was mightily impressive whether it was the tackling in defensive duties
or the ball-carrying by the pack or the Bunting boot. When it was needed Robbie Martey added
that sprinkling of magic on an afternoon when the Black & Whites were not to be denied. The
league season may have ended but a new Cup competition follows in the weeks to come. The
draw will occur next week and the date and opposition for this match will be posted in due course
on the club website.
Sutton & Epsom
Alex Mawdsley, Robbie Martey, Lawrence Elliott, Freddy Bunting, Sam Hurley, Jamie See, Ross
Parsons, Tom Boaden, Chris Farrell, Will Lloyd, George Drye, Josh Glanville, Ben Tame, George
London, James Caddy ©.
Replacements: (all used) Alex Mount, Chris Pointing & Ciaran Mohr
Alex Frame, Simon Bayliss, Daniel Mays, Oliver Radford, Alexander Fieldhouse, Matthew Outson,
Franklin Lewis, Ruairi Henderson, Bradley Walters, Nicholas Ovens, Thomas Scott, George Jupp,
James Johnson, Liam Wood, Ken Hodgson.
Replacements: (all used) Jasper Miranda, Joseph Maybey & Noah Cannon.