A dreich Sunday morning at the Meads was not quite what Rupert Brooke had in mind when he penned the above lines, but today witnessed the sort of committed performance from the Academy that could only draw plaudits from those watching from the side-lines.
Everyone contributed to a contest that, given the conditions, could have descended into a stodgy grind and an attritional arm wrestle between the packs. Full credit therefore must be extended to both squads for endeavouring to circumvent the conditions and play positive, attacking, rugby.
Playing with the hill in the first half, Academy pressure was rewarded after eight minutes with a penalty in front of the posts and something of a regulation 3 points; although there was nothing regulation about the build-up. Academy pressure then turned to defence as the visitors upped the ante culminating in a scything try on the quarter hour mark; (3-5).
The conditions underfoot and a dropping of the mercury made some of the play a lottery with both sides contributing and benefiting from slips and handling errors; but there was still plenty of attacking flair, defensive work and kicking for territory to ensure the game ebbed and flowed from ‘22 to ‘22.
The final quarter of the half saw the Academy establish and then extend a lead with two tries, the first on the 20-minute mark (8-5) and the second on the half hour (15-5). We then held out for the remainder of the half and so went into the turn around with a sound, but far from secure, 10-point lead.
With the advantage of the hill in the second half, Sutton & Epsom came out of the blocks with a drive and intensity that ultimately forced the Academy into our 5-meter zone for a sustained period of defence. The pressure instigated a series of penalties (taken as scrums) and ultimately a yellow card. With the hosts now a player down there was something inevitable about the resulting S&E try; although forced out the wings, the resulting conversion was an angle too acute; (15-10).
Back to full complement the Academy took the game to the visitors and, defying the fatigue inducing effect of the hill, produced some impactful attacking play; with only a superb try saving tackle from the visitors thwarting the hosts from adding to their tally. Finally though pressure out on the right wing produced the try that ultimately took the game away from Sutton & Epsom; (20-10).
That was not to say that S&E were out the game and the last quarter was played almost exclusively in the Academy’s half; and frequently too close to our try line for comfort. The defence however held and with the clock, finally, in the red this Cup game ended with a win for the Meads team; (20-10).
Huge thanks to the players, parents and coaches of Sutton & Epsom for contributing to a great game under far from clement conditions. For the Academy squad a bit more communication would not go amiss; however undue criticism would be churlish in the context of what was possibly, the most composed, controlled and committed performance of the season thus far. Huge congratulations to the whole squad.
Home training next week; so let’s build on this success and get a good turnout for training.