Epping & Upper Clapton 36 Sudbury 31
Sudbury had their good run of wins — which had stood at seven games — ended in an agonizingly narrow defeat away at Epping Upper Clapton on Saturday.
A big, heavy pack and a well organised defence outsmarted Sudbury in the first half leaving them a lot to do in the second.
The Suffolk visitors kicked off into a stiff, cold breeze and immediately took the game to the home side.
Two early scrums were taken by Sudbury and then they were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts, with Sam Rust making sure of the points.
Epping scored a try after a quarter-of-an-hour with a kick ahead and a lightning run down the wing after several phases of play from the halfway line.
Despite the size of their pack they were playing the game at pace and causing Sudbury problems. Again when Sudbury got near their red zone they gave away penalties and again Rust opted to kick to regain the lead.
Poor handling in the cold conditions from both sides led to many scrums which Sudbury handled well, but Epping out-jumped Sudbury in the lineout.
A second try came when the forwards rucked and mauled their way down the centre of the park and then a third from a penalty lineout in the 22, and then the forwards battered their way forward for a 19-6 lead at the break.
Sudbury started the second half in more determined mood and soon added another penalty to their tally.
But a period of pressure in the Epping half saw the hosts’ defence hold firm.
Epping then out ran the Sudbury defence and good handling saw them produce another try.
From the restart, Sudbury scored when Jake Thurlow collected the kick and ran in to touch down.
A break from Austin Beckett, who ran round behind the posts, reduced the deficit with half-an-hour of the second half played.
Harry Maile then crossed the stripe after the backs made the metres and Sudbury were right in the game once again.
The purple patch continued with a further try from a kick ahead to take the lead with only seconds left on the clock.
Epping asked the referee what the score was and were told they needed a try to win so, from the restart, they pressured the Sudbury line.
The visitors just needed to get the ball out of play to win, but instead gave away three penalties. Quick taps each time allowed the forwards to batter their way up the pitch for the inevitable try.
Two bonus points helped but an eighth straight win was certainly within their grasp.
Ben Scully’s side slipped a place in the table to fourth ahead of their last game of the year, at Ipswich on Saturday.