Sutton & Epsom and Havant served up a veritable feast of rugby in an enthralling London Division One South match at Rugby Lane last Saturday with the hosts running out 39-33 winners.
The match contained 11 tries as well as plenty of running rugby providing more than enough to entertain the die-hard supporter and neutral alike.
When these sides met in Hampshire back in October, the game was decided with the last kick of the match and this one was no different with the outcome in question until the final whistle.
Sutton included a new pairing at half back with Jonjo Wadwa and Jak Martin starting together for the first time, and James Caddy moving to second row in place of Felix Symonds.
Havant arrived with three wins in their last four weeks but both teams needed points to ensure further space between themselves and the relegation zone.
With the slight advantage of the wind Sutton opened the scoring with their first attack of the afternoon, a fine back move led to Sam Hurley joining the line and he had the simple task of scoring almost unopposed, unfortunately the conversion was missed.
Sutton soon had their excellent driving maul in action. From the first drive Havant infringed and the referee sent one of their forwards to the sin bin.
With the Havant defence under some pressure, Shawn Renwick opted for a scrum from another penalty and scrum half Jonjo Wadwa snaked past a couple of tackles to score the second try, which was converted giving Sutton as 12-point lead after 10 minutes.
Whilst Havant were down to 14 men Sutton sought to increase their lead and it was not long before James Bennett was driven over from a maul and then as a Sutton attack on the left wing broke down, second row James Caddy pounced on a loose ball and secured the try bonus point.
With 16 minutes gone Sutton held a 24 – 0 lead and a comfortable victory seemed on the cards.
Havant obviously had not read the script, as they now took the opportunity to display their running skills, and their talented centre Joel Knight finished off an excellent back move for their first try and he also scored the conversion.
With five tries scored within the first 20 minutes there was hardly time for the crowd or players to catch their breath.
The visitors had now found their game and started to put Sutton under some pressure, but in the last few minutes of the half, Andy Nichols out ran the Havant defence and scored Sutton’s fifth try of the afternoon, which Sam Hurley duly converted to give Sutton a very health half time lead 31-7.
Regular watchers of Sutton will know that they tend to suffer from “second half syndrome”; whereby their second half performance is never as strong as the first half, the most recent example being last week against Wimbledon.
This week was no exception and Havant emulated Sutton’s first half performance by recording three tries in the first eight minutes of the second half.
Two scored by pacy winger Loz Blackburn who found a weakness in the Sutton defence with the long kick into open space and out running the defence.
With Havant converting two of the tries the match had a very different complexion; Sutton led 31-26 with over 30 minutes to play, and the final outcome was very firmly in the balance.
Showing some of his form from two seasons ago, Andy Nichols scored his second try of the afternoon to restore the 10 point lead but not to be out-done Havant scored another converted try to cut the deficit to three points with 20 minutes remaining.
Sutton seemed to have the upper hand in the closing stages, assisted by another Havant yellow card, which allowed Sam Hurley to convert the only penalty attempt at goal of the game to give Sutton a six-point lead.
Havant could not find a way through the Sutton defence in the last 10 minutes and there was great relief when the final whistle blew.
The two meetings between the sides this season have yielded a total of 148 points and 21 tries, with Sutton scoring 12 of them and full credit must go to Havant for their part in an excellent and engrossing match as well as to their supporters for adding to the atmosphere as well as the bar takings.
Sutton travel to fourth placed Sidcup this Saturday for a re-arranged fixture which had been postponed in January, kick off is at 3pm.
Team: Sam Hurley, Andy Nichols, Dave Cook, Warren Steyn, Steve Warnham, Jak Martin, Jonjo Wadwa, Tariq Al Khaldi, James Bennett, Raynn Bruce, James Caddy, Mike Blakeburn, George London, Joe Ridgley, Shawn Renwick (Captain).
Subs: Paul Webster, Chris Hitchcock, Jason Ford.
Try: Jonjo Wadwa goes over for Sutton & Epsom
Over: James Bennett try with Mike Blakeburn driving him over