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Race for home play-off going to the wire

TOGETHER: Sudbury Rugby team huddle as they plan their next step. Picture: Mecha Morton
TOGETHER: Sudbury Rugby team huddle as they plan their next step. Picture: Mecha Morton

Sudbury Rugby Club’s hopes of hosting the promotion play-off are in their own hands, though to make sure it looks like they will have to beat the champions on their own patch on Saturday.

While Sudbury were beating Epping Upper Clapton 45-0 at Whittome Field in London League Division Two North East, to lift their league points tally to 93, results in the Division Two North West were going in their favour.

North West leaders H.A.C. were beaten 25-13 by second-placed Hampstead, who now top the division on 93 points. Third-placed Harpenden also won, and are level on 90 points with H.A.C.

The play-off, on April 28 now, instead of the originally scheduled April 21, will be at the ground of the divisional runners-up with most league points.

Final matches of the league season on Saturday see Harpenden hosting Hampstead, effectively a winner-takes-all game, and H.A.C. face a less daunting home fixture against Hemel Hempstead.

In 2NW runners-up Sudbury travel to champions Rochford Hundred (3pm).

Rochford clinched the title with a 101-3 victory over Norwich at the weekend, and defend a perfect record, having won all 20 games and picked up a try bonus point in each one. Rochford will have one game left to play after Saturday, a rescheduled fixture at Harlow.

The odds are still just in favour of the play-off being at the home of one of the North West teams.

Sudbury know they face a mammoth task in their final game of the regular season, but travel determined to try to spoil the champions’ party, and take revenge for the opening day 40-29 defeat.

In his programme notes on Saturday, head coach Ben Scully wrote: “Although we will be aiming to win the fixture (and spoil Rochford’s unbeaten season), for us the manner of the performance will be of more importance and should put us in a good position for the play-off two weeks later.”

Saturday’s victory over relegation-threatened Epping was Sudbury’s 10th win on the bounce, and avenged their last defeat, 36-31 at Epping on December 9. Once again Sudbury’s greater fitness paid off, with three tries in the last quarter (see page 68).

Although Epping kept the ball in their forwards for long spells, Sudbury defended well.

“They maybe threatened our line once or twice in the second period but we were resilient,” said Scully.

“I thought it was an outstanding defence effort from our boys today.

“Epping wanted to spoil our ball, and the first 60 minutes wasn’t a spectacle, but that last magic 15-20 minutes saw us score tries, and they were dead on their feet.”

• Meanwhile, Sudbury Colts (under-18s) will host Braintree in the Suffolk Colts Plate Final at Whittome Field on Sunday (12.30pm) as Neil Dachtler’s side look to end their season with silverware.

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