Lofty position was false for coach as Suds target top six

WELCOME RETURN: Sudbury skipper Tom Summers will return from a five-game suspension on Saturday
WELCOME RETURN: Sudbury skipper Tom Summers will return from a five-game suspension on Saturday

Graham Richards insists his Sudbury rugby side’s hopes of promotion have not suffered a fatal blow — as going up was never in their thoughts.

A win at second-placed Cantabrigian on Saturday would have left Suds two points behind them in a top-two chase.

Although third-placed Old Cooperians would have held two games in hand, Sudbury still have to play both them and leaders Campion among their six remaining matches.

But a 30-5 defeat in Cambridge on Saturday has left the Whittome Field outfit five points adrift of Old Cooperians and eight from Cantabs.

For Richards, though, it changes nothing, as he only has eyes for a top-six spot.

Of a potential promotion chase, he said: “It is not put to bed as it has never been in bed — our fixtures coming up are all against the top sides.”

With a trip to sixth-placed Upminster lying in wait on Saturday (3pm), he added: “I have said from day one for us to compete in the top half of the table would be success for Sudbury Rugby Club, and I still believe that.

“If we get another couple of wins and hit the 50-point mark, I would have thought that would do it.”

Sudbury had started the season in red-hot form, winning their first six matches, including a narrow 15-12 success over Cantabs in the reverse fixture.

But Richards, who had gone into the campaign 
saying avoiding relegation was the only target, having only 
escaped the trapdoor thanks to a reprieve last season, believes going up now would have been detrimental in the long run.

“We are not in a position to compete to get promoted,” he said. “We are not strong enough and if this club got promoted fortuitously this time around it is not strong enough to sustain itself at that level.”

Strength in depth, rather than numbers, since the club alleviated that issue by reinstating a second team over the summer, is what Richards regards as the main barrier.

“The teams that do well have the same team every week for 75 or 80 per cent of the time, but I cannot do that,” he said.

In Cambridge, university, injuries and players unavailable due to Saturday originally being a free week, emphasised his problems.

“The reality is they were better than us and we got a bit of a lesson in the scrum — but I expected that,” he added.

Brothers Austin and Fraser Beckett played Saturday, but cannot this weekend.