A stoppage time try from Jamie Burroughs saw Diss wipe out Sudbury’s bonus point at Mackenders to reclaim second place at their opponents’ expense this afternoon (Saturday, February 13).
Diss head coach Rogers Coombs had described the second-versus-third contest in London League Two North East as a ‘must-win’ affair for his side’s promotion hopes.
And after a slow start, the Blues responded in the perfect fashion with a dominant second half display seeing them finish eight points ahead on the scoreboard — serving to rob Sudbury of a losing bonus point which would have kept them a place above their opponents in the table.
Scrum-half Burroughs provided the telling touchdown in stoppage time after the hosts spent almost the entire second 40 minutes camped in Sudbury’s half, after going into the interval trailing 13-10.
In front of a bumper crowd at Mackenders of more than 200, with that number having been booked in for the pre-match lunch alone, it was Sudbury who the most to shout about early on.
After almost scoring twice in the left-hand corner, the referee pulled play back for an infringement and Chris Lewis calmly kicked them ahead inside the first 10 minutes.
Diss were their own worst enemy in the early stages as handling errors were seeing promising moves break down, while Sudbury’s defence held up well to turnover possession when it seemed the home breakthrough was imminent.
But all of the visitors’ good work was soon undone with a terrible error of judgement just before the half-an-hour mark. Giles West was the grateful recipient of a looped pass out of the base of a Sudbury ruck, allowing him to run clear to put the Norfolk side ahead. What looked to be a simple conversion was somehow missed by Philip LeLeivre,
But the error only served to gee up the visitors, who were playing their first game since their head coach and the man who guided them to the league title and promotion last season, Graham Richards, announced he is set to leave the club at the end of the season.
A foray into their opponents’ half soon saw them get their noses back in front as Shaun Smith provided the footwork to get to the line, cutting in from the right with a nice diagonal run. Lewis kept his cool once more to bring up a 10-5 advantage.
The same player then took advantage of a long but straight penalty to make it 13-5 as they looked to put the hosts quickly out of sight by half-time.
But Diss showed great character to keep at it and eventually they got their reward, crucially, coming in the last play of the half.
The ball was moved from left to right and West looked like he could go all the way, but after cutting inside, laid off a smart pass to the corner for Sean McClure to jump on. Frenchman Philip LeLeivre was unable to convert the wide-angled kick, but had given his side a great platform to mount their comeback, going in trailing 13-10.
Interestingly, Sudbury stayed out on the pitch in the bitter cold for their half-time talk.
But it was the hosts, buoyed by that late try, who made all the running in the second 40.
In what became a half played out to the backdrop of the referee’s whistle, Diss kept their heads on the task and used their superior scurm and pack to go about making up the territory to complete their comeback.
The plan looked to be working perfectly when, 57 minutes in, LeLeivre darted over, running in from five metres, though his conversion fell agonizingly just short of the posts.
At 15-13 the game was still anyone’s and the home crowd began to let their frustrations at the handling of repeated infringements by the visitors inside their 22 boil over with official Nick Curtin not only not awarding a penalty try, but deciding to keep his cards in his pocket.
It became groundhog day as scrum after scrum was signalled within 10 metres of the Sudbury try line.
But Diss’ players, to their credit, kept their cool, and eventually, after a around 15 minutes of stop-start rugby, got their reward when Burroughs broke through a gap in the visitors’ line to ground next to the posts. From so straight on to the posts, LeLeivre could barely miss this time, and did not.
It was met by an almighty cheers as the home crowd seemed to have worked out the 22-13 scoreline, with less than four minutes left on the clock for stoppages, would serve to see Diss leapfrog their opponents into second.
After suffering two league defeats in their last three, including a bitterly disappointing 26-0 whitewash at league leaders Saffron Walden - who beat Cantabridgians this afternoon 32-10, Diss had put in a performance which suggests they are very much ready to ensure they last the distance in the promotion race.
Sudbury, meanwhile, will need to look to bounce back on Saturday when Saffron Walden visit Whittome Field (2.30pm) in another tough test against a promotion rival.
DISS: 1 Richards, 2 Craven, 3 Groom, 4 Brock, 5 Walker, 6 Katu, 7 J Trede, 8 F Hall, 9 Burroughs, 10 Peacock, 11 LeLeivre, 12 Ludkin, 13 C Trede, 14 West. 15 McClure. Replacements: 16 Lawton, 17 Scott, 18 Passmore.
SUDBURY: 1 Francois, 2 Whybrow, 3 Conning, 4 D Taylor, 5 Nankivell, 6 Robinson, 7 Thurlow, 8 Burton, 9 F Beckett, 10 Lewis, 11 A Beckett, 12 Wright, 13 H Maile, 14 Smith, 15 Summers. Replacements: 16 S Maile, 17 J Taylor, 18 Stanton.