LONDON LEAGUE 3NE
Sudbury 28 Stowmarket 15
by Ken Watkins at Whittome Field
IN the end this was a comfortable victory, Sudbury duly completing a league double over their county rivals, dominating the last quarter of the game and stretching their mini-revival to three straight victories.
But the joy of the derby victory was tempered by a serious injury to Sudbury’s talismanic hooker Alex Pears, who was carried off after just 10 minutes and taken to the West Suffolk Hospital, his season over. Pears suffered a fractured fibula, and will be in plaster for eight weeks following an operation on Sunday.
Stuart Whybrow took over the hooking duties, but the enforced change made little difference to a Sudbury pack which was always dominant, providing the platform from which the home side’s four tries were scored.
Stowmarket, after an opening 10-minute spell of pressure, were almost always second best, although Sudbury wasted opportunities to put them out of sight long before the end, three comfortable try-scoring openings being squandered by some poor handling.
Sudbury’s poor kicking from defence, a constant problem this season, also needlessly turned over possession, and it wasn’t until the 58th minute that they began to emphatically stamp their authority on a game that always looked there for the taking.
Josh Rix had opened the scoring, picking up from a ruck on the line to crash over in the 17th minute, Tom Summers narrowly failing with the conversion. Summers punished a high tackle with a penalty in the 34th minute, putting Sudbury 8-0 up at the interval.
Stowmarket hit back with a try in the first minute of the second half, Stuart Hill finding acres of space to go over comfortably, and Thomas Searles enjoying an easy conversion.
Summers and Searles traded penalties to keep the margin to one point until, in the 58th minute, Fraser Beckett scored a magnificent solo try. Sudbury’s pack won possession on the halfway line, and the diminutive scrum-half raced away, jinking past four defenders to score. Summers was inches short with the conversion.
Sudbury then kept play almost constantly deep in the Stowmarket half, but failed to capitalise on that dominance until the last minute, Rix again on the scoresheet as Sudbury’s pack drove over. Summers’ conversion attempt was just off target.
Fourteen minutes of injury time were played, and five minutes in Matt Griffiths scored his first try for the club, taking a pass from Beckett and racing round the defence to touch down exuberantly under the posts. Summers converted.
At 28-10 it was finally game over, but Sudbury briefly lost concentration three minutes later, allowing Joseph Field to break clear down the flank and reduce the arrears. But that merely reduced the margin before Sudbury took the game back into the Stowmarket 22 and ran down the clock.