LONDON THREE NORTH EAST: Sudbury 22 Harlow 15: Sudbury secured their most important win of the season against third-placed Harlow on Saturday to make it six victories in a row.
The early games were against teams in the lower half of the table, but Harlow — one place lower than their hosts — would be the test Sudbury needed.
Once again the opposition had a bigger, heavier pack and it was clear from the start they were going to use this advantage to keep the ball tight and slow the game down to prevent the Sudbury backs running freely.
Sudbury kicked off and immediately took play deep into the Harlow half.
Two quick scrums saw Louie Boydell pick up from the base of the second and a swift pass out to Shaun Smith gave Sudbury their first points wide on the right with only two minutes on the clock.
The hosts was unable to play a flowing game and inevitably gave away silly technical penalties as they were denied their usual amount of possession.
Harlow gained territory from this and, from a penalty lineout midway in the Sudbury 22 metre-area, Harlow drove and scored on the half hour to level the score.
Sudbury replied with a try from a scrum just inside their own half.
Toby White broke and kicked ahead, collecting his own kick before he was felled just short of the line.
However, Tom Summers, in close support, scrambled over to score for a 10-5 half-time score.
Harlow started the second half well with a try and conversion from a lineout, followed by three phases by the forwards to score.
The Suffolk home side were still picking up penalties and eventually gave away one in range of Harlow’s kicker for them to stretch their lead to five points.
For the last 10 minutes of the game, Sudbury upped the effort and started to have more control on the game and should have scored after having three consecutive scrums on the Harlow five-metre line.
Smith broke down the right wing to beat the defence, but a final tackle prevented him touching down, but again, good support allowed Summers to complete the move.
By now, Sudbury were on top and in the dying seconds Summers scrambled over from a scrum in the 22 and dodged a couple of tackles to score his hat-trick under the posts and convert his own try.
Sudbury had their defences severely tested and also their resolve when their usual game plan was disrupted by a tough dogged side.
The penalty count was high, but they survived.
On Saturday they need to do a good job at Old Brentwoods (3pm) to put down a marker for their next big test at Wanstead.