Chiswick show scant respect for champions
The match started, as it continued, at least for long periods, with Sutton, the League champions, in control, winning their own kick-off and then retaining possession. At the first Chiswick scrum Sutton gained a turnover, and the Chiswick lineouts were a lottery throughout the match, whereas Sutton’s were always a simple catch and (nearly always) a quick pass back. Nonetheless, Chiswick refused to admit Sutton’s superiority and gave a hugely spirited display, with Simon Hallett leading the tackle charge, and the whole team responding with great determination to at least gain a share of the ball.
Nine minutes in Sutton scored their first try, although most of the large crowd were silent, having apparently missed what was rumoured to be a dive over the line from short range. The excellent Sutton kicker had no problems adding the points. Four minutes later they added the second, their outside centre wrong-footing the defence with a slight hesitation before showing his acceleration to score in the left corner. A difficult kick, but again no problem. With things beginning to look grim for the visitors, Sutton got a little careless, allowing the kickoff to roll into touch.They tried a maul from the lineout, but Chiswick had the answer to that, and Sutton resorted to the kick, but it was a poor one. They then tried to run the ball out of their 22, but after the first Chiswick tackle they prevented release and Chiswick had a kickable penalty. Hallett chose the five metre lineout option, however, and at the second attempt Sam Leslie-Miller got a good catch, and Simon Allen-Clarke emerged with the ball. Forcing his way along the try-line towards the posts, the second row man eventually plunged over, giving Hallett an easy kick. Suddenly the game had changed.
Sutton then had a period of pressure, but the Chiswick tackles were getting fiercer and more assured, with Dan Godfrey prominent. Sutton gotin a lot of passes trying to create a gap in the right side of Chiswick’s defence, but the in-form Dan Sutherland, playing on the wing this match, was watching, and suddenly struck, plucking the ball out of the air near his 22 and sprinting down the touchline. Three despairing would-be tacklers exhausted themselves trying to catch him, but did succeed in keeping him wide out, and limiting the loss to the five points.
The home No.8 was proving a handful in the loose, and it required an effective shirt-grabbing tackle by Phil Gray to prevent him having a clear run to the line. Reducing the lineout to four proved good for Chiswick, with Sam Hood for once gaining possession and setting up a maul. Why this tactic was not used more is a bit of a mystery. Allen-Clarke then came into the back line to create a hole in the home defence. A knock-on put a stop to this promising move, unfortunately. The play continued evenly-balanced until half-time.
Chiswick made a tentative start to the second half, soon conceding control to Sutton. Their defence was good, however, until a high tackle gave Sutton the chance to get a five metre scrum. Continuing Sutton pressure culminated in a yellow card for Chiswick, for deliberately slowing the play. The visitors’ tackling remained first class as the home teams attacks multiplied. Not only that but they achieved a turnover at a Sutton five metre scrum. Six minutes into the yellow card, a break by the Sutton No.8 led to a try in the right corner, the flattened corner flag not persuading the referee to disallow it. The difficult kick was slotted nonchalantly, the trademark hesitation in the kicker’s run-up not indicating lack of confidence.
As the yellow card expired, Chiswick gained a penalty, and Hallett secured the three points with a good long kick. Chiswick played well for a period, but then the umpteenth high kick down the line undid them, the ball yorking Gabs Lowe, who may have regretted taking a kick at it, and being retrieved by a flying wing. He was brilliantly caught just short of the corner, but just managed to get an inside pass away to his supporting player, who touched down. The kicker proved human, hitting the post with his kick. Chiswick came back strongly and Adam Ross nearly put Gray in for a try. The insertion of Tom Dean into the front row produced the best Chiswick scrum yet, with Leslie-Miller getting a bit of space to run in. Unfortunately the space was in the Chiswick 22, Now out of the losing bonus point range, Chiswick began to push a little too hard, and more mistakes ensued. Sutton, in the meantime, made very few, and deservedly got their fifth, converted, try, immediately before the final whistle, as three Chiswick defenders managed to leave a channel down the touchline for the home left wing to run down when the ball carrier inside him looked in trouble.
Chiswick team:- McDonough, Dibble, Parmeter, Hood, Allen-Clarke, Gray, Darroch, Leslie-Miller, Ross, Hallett, Purkiss, Godfrey, Millais, Sutherland, Lowe; Dean, Cody-Owen, Hill