Sudbury 27 Wanstead 12
England youth-capped Austin Beckett revealed he was the one who asked to come back to his promotion-chasing hometown club.
And now the 19-year-old hopes to use his experience at a higher level to help them past the finishing post en route to London Two North East.
The winger, who had a spell in Premiership giants Northampton Saints’ academy and has played for both England’s under-16s and under-17s sides, marked his return to Whittome Field with an early try to set Sudbury on their way to another home victory.
With challengers Cantabrigian’s scheduled game at Old Brentwoods postponed, ahead of Sudbury travelling to them on Saturday (3pm), the Suffolk side extended their lead at the top of London Three North East.
But this 27-12 win was far less impressive than the previous Saturday’s 60-7 demolition of Old Brentwoods, with some worrying missed tackles and gaps in the defence going unpunished in what was a scoreless second half, until a late try by Shaun Smith finally put things beyond any doubt.
The last time Austin Beckett was in a Sudbury shirt, at the end of last season after their early season form had deserted them to wipe out hopes of promotion, he admits it was a very different dressing room to the one he walked back into.
“Everyone is so positive and knows how to play the rugby now, and they are being smart about it as well,” said the former St Joseph’s College player.
“It is mostly attitude, everyone is believing they can do it and it is within reach.
“It is really enjoyable playing with the lads again, the pressure is off me, and I am getting the ball a lot more than I have been used to, coming in from the wing.”
With his father Mike no longer chairman but still involved, and his brother Frazer recently returned, he said it was an easy decision to take the step down to get games again.
“Because I am going to university next year, Cambridge have said they want to play the side that will be there next year, so they kept me in the development side and they haven’t organised a game since the Christmas.
“There was no point in staying there if I am not playing games and not enjoying it, so I thought I would ask Graham and he said it was absolutely fine to come back for the last games of the season.”
He added: “It is always nice to get a try, especially on my first game back.
“I went to Cambridge to play with Frazer, so to come back here and play with him again is great.”
The hosts started like a train against their mid-table opponents, with Ethan Wright, back after a shoulder injury, finishing a move on the left just six minutes in, with Beckett dovetailing Smith’s strong run down the right to double their tally two minutes after. Chris Lewis was only able to add the second conversion though.
Wanstead kept themselves in the game with a quick response, number 10 Chris Clayton-Smith setting the path for Jacob King in the 13th minute, though their conversion attempt failed.
Sudbury came right back at them though and some good forwards play ended with a driving maul in the left corner, with Dan Cracknell successfully grounding the ball for 17-5, the difficult angle beating Lewis’ kick.
Alan Greary replied with a converted try by Mike Rugeley to continue a breathless first half, with Sudbury taking advantage of a yellow card for the try scorer to take the score to 22-12 when veteran Scott Harries went over on the left after taking a clever reverse pass from Sam Wakefield.
Bizarrley, the referee blew for half-time 10 minutes early, with the second half seeing Wanstead look to exploit gaps in the home defence after turning over possession.
But with their failure to take advantage of some largely lacklustre tackling, Smith made them pay with his side’s fifth try late on, diving over on the right after being put in by Frazer Beckett.
Director of rugby Graham Richards said his side ‘let them back into the game with silly errors’.
But he added: “I don’t think I am being unfair on them when I say they never looked like winning the game. Everything in the second half was breakaway and we had to stop them, we did.”
Sudbury: 1. Whybrow, 2, Cracknell, 3. Conning, 4. D Taylor, 5. Currie, 6. Attridge, 7. Robinson, 8. Burton, 9. Harries, 10. Lewis, 11. A Beckett, 12. Wright, 13. Johnston, 14. Smith, 15. F Beckett. Replacements: 16. Wakefield, 17. Cowling, 18 J Taylor.