Sutton & Epsom Women 20 Wimbledon Women 43. Saturday 18th February. Sutton & Epsom had enjoyed a comfortable 26-0 triumph at Beverley Meads in November. However, they were only too aware that that result bore no resemblance to the recent form of the Dons. In 2023 they have taken the scalps of not only Hammersmith & Fulham last week but also the Guildford Gazelles and most notably Battersea Ironsides. After 80 minutes of thrilling rugby and an eleven-try bonanza Wimbledon returned to SW20 with the points after an exhilarating 43-
Hannah Gutteridge kicked off for the visitors on a mild and sunny afternoon that was ideal for
running rugby and both teams capitalised on the conditions. After the initial sparring with both
sets of forwards carrying the ball ferociously and being met with thunderous tackles it was the
Barham Road team who opened the scoring. The Dons were awarded a penalty when an S&E
player failed to roll away. A splendid tackle by Abby Wynne thwarted the first sortie but it was
spread wide for Jade Whareate to squeeze in at the corner for a 5-0 lead. The game went from
end to end as Sutton tried to get onto level terms whilst Wimbledon sought to extend their lead.
With Aegean Leech to the fore the Dons defence stood firm.
Sutton suffered a self-inflicted wound when Abby Wynne’s long clearance was brought back due to
S&E players failing to retreat. Gifted with free possession and the bonus of a penalty on the host’s
22 the visitors exploited the situation to the maximum. Fluent play from the backs set up Maddie
Healey who finished with aplomb out wide. Trailing 0-10 the Rugby Lane team were also forced
into a change as an injured Hannah Smith was replaced by Natalie McCall. Maddie Healey was
soon in the thick of the action once more with another electric burst of pace which should have
created a try but the ball hit the deck when the line was begging.
The fates then conspired against the Black & Whites as a raking clearance kick from Hannah
Gutteridge took the cruellest of bounces to wrong foot the cover. Maddie Healey got to the ball
first and intelligently fly-hacked the ball to the vacant in-goal area. The quicksilver winger won the
race to the line to touchdown for her second try of the afternoon. Hannah Gutteridge made light of
the challenging conversion to extend Wimbledon’s lead to 17-0. Sutton & Epsom pressed hard to
get on the scoreboard before the break. The Dons knocked on the restart and provided the prefect
platform on the 22 for an S&E attack but once more they could not find a way through the
opposition defences. In addition winger Ella Zeqiri was injured in a tackle and had to be replaced
by Lucy Hoad. All the hosts’ efforts were in vain as the first period ended with Wimbledon leading
Sutton & Epsom were pro-active at the break and brought Joanne Evans and Jayne Maddox off the
bench as they went in search of an early score in the second half. The latter made an immediate
impact with her running and probing boot. However, the next score went to the visitors. A
stunning break by fullback Ellie Seagrave put the S&E defence under severe pressure. The hosts
conceded a 5-metre penalty. A couple of rumbling carries by the SW20 pack narrowed the defence
and then the ball was spun wide. Zoe Johnson was on hand for the clinical finish to earn the bonus
point for Try Number 4.
Sutton now mounted a stunning comeback. Aegean Leach stole the ball and her swift counter
nearly led to a try. The retreating defence were forced into conceding a penalty and the referee
issued a yellow card. The Black & Whites took immediate advantage of their numerical superiority
with the tap penalty sent wide where Joanne Evans battled her way over the line to score. Trailing
5-22 the crowd only had a moment to draw breath before they were cheering another Sutton
score. S&E secured the restart and Jayne Meadows crossfield kick was gathered but a bone-
shaking tackle from Aegean Leach turned over the ball and the talismanic Sutton back set off for
the line from halfway. Her powerful run down the touchline culminated in a jolting hand-off to the
last defender before scoring. The visitors’ lead was now only 22-10 and they were still 14.
It was now Jayne Meadows turn to turnover the ball. Natalie McCall was awarded a penalty after a
strong carry which was quickly taken and Jayne Meadows carried it to the 22. The ball was spun
wide until Aegean Jones cut back and her angled run saw her collect her second score under the
posts. The momentum of the match had swung dramatically in the hosts’ favour as they now only
trailed 15-22. However, their wings were clipped when not only they temporarily lost the influential
Joanne Evans to a yellow card for a high tackle but they also lost Aegean Leech to an injury.
It was now Wimbledon’s turn to take advantage of the yellow card scenario. A fabulous run from
depth by Ellie Seagrave fielding a Jayne Meadows clearance almost saw the 15 score but support
was on hand from replacement Shenay Nurse who crossed the whitewash. Hannah Gutteridge
added the extras for 29-15 and clear water between the two teams. Sutton returned to attack
mode and a flurry of penalties saw another yellow card being awarded to one of the Dons. S&E
failed to convert the pressure from 5 metres out and Hannah Gutteridge relieved the pressure with
a huge clearance kick. They say a kick is only as good as the chase and Shenay Nurse raced after
the ball and her pressure resulted in a knock on. The visitors were in no mood to ease off and
centre Jade Whareate scored a marvellous solo effort to garner her second try of the afternoon.
Hannah Gutteridge bisected the uprights as the Beverley Meads team stretched their advantage to
Joanne Evans returned as S&E sought out at least a solitary bonus point for the fourth try. But
Wimbledon had not finished and as if she had felt left out of the action outside centre Sophie
Jackson set off in search of glory. Her powerful run carved through the defence and she had
enough in reserve to burst through the last tackle and score under the posts. Hannah Gutteridge
added her fourth conversion of the afternoon to make it 43-15. However, the final moment
belonged to Lucy Hoad. The winger collected the ball near halfway and began an arcing run across
the width of the pitch, having outflanked the defence she only had one opponent left who she
promptly sidestepped for a stunning score. That concluded the scoring on a pulsating afternoon of
Wimbledon deservedly won the contest 43-20 with their excellent back division scoring a
magnificent seven tries. On the back of the strong ball-carrying of their forwards the distribution,
handling and finishing of their backs showed what can be done with exemplary core skills. The
revitalised Sutton after the break seriously threatened to overturn the 22-point deficit and the final
margin of defeat probably did not reflect the competitive nature of this wonderful contest.
Next Sunday, 26 th February, Sutton & Epsom will be looking to return to winning ways when they
travel to the Guildford Gazelles who they have yet to play this season.
Sutton & Epsom
Abby Wynne, Ella Zeqiri, Rachel Kinsella, Olivia Lambe, Charlotte Mahoney, Aegean Leech, Zoe
Smith, Tia Jones, Caroline Styan, Hannah Smith, Beth Evans, Robyn Bloomfield, Alice Clarke,
Bernadette Rees & Harriet Forsyth.
Replacements: Georgina Farrington, Isabelle Keith, Lucy Hoad, Natalie McCall, Joanne Evans, &
Ellie Seagrave, Zoe Johnston, Sophie Jackson, Jade Whareate, Maddie Healey, Hannah Gutteridge,
Sophie Blackett, Nikeisha Hendricks, Willow Ingleton, Maryam Nejand, Zoe Adams, Zoe Leake,
Tracey Smith, Heather McNaughtan & Lucy Boiling.
Replacements: Stacey Malinowski, Karen Williams, Shenay Nurse, Jennifer Crooke & Lauren