Combe come oh so close
Last play winner for Sutton & Epsom 30-29
Combe came to within a gnat’s crotchet of clinching their first win of the season away at Sutton and Epsom. Beaten on the final whistle. Combe had done very well to claw back a 15-0 deficit to end the first half 20-14, then eke out a lead going into the final minutes, only to concede a score on the stroke of full time. There was a lot of action from both sides, some good rugby, but also errors, some of which would be expensively punished.
Combe started brightly trying to peg the home side back in their own half, but a quick tap penalty by S&E, attacking down the left gave them a good position for a line-out in Combe’s twenty-two, clean ball, spun right and full back Stefan Cookasammy up in support could take an inside pass and go over for the first try of the game. Meanwhile Josh Livett was down, injured and off, and barely five minutes gone. Worse was to follow: two yellow cards, Combe would be down to thirteen temporarily. Jacob Knight put over a penalty for S&E, then Andrew Matthews was over in the corner for a converted try. 15-0. Tom Clarke was down, injured and off. But back to a full complement, Combe won their line-out on their own twenty-two, Ant Hitchcock streaked through a gap, had Bradley Saffery in support who came close but Ant Hitchcock had stayed on hand to receive the scoring pass. Stunning. James Cameron converted. 15-7. The home side replied, punishing Combe’s spilled ball, Angus McCurdie going over in the corner. 20-7. But the half was not yet over. Breaking through the middle of a ruck, Bradley Bateup went clear and close. He had Miki Zanirato in support for a score by the posts which he converted himself. Ant Hitchcock was almost through again, as Combe finished the first period looking stronger. S&E had some dangerous looking runners but these were now being closed down. Work to do though.
S&E had a penalty shot early after the re-start but this went wide. Thereafter it was Combe pegging the home side back in their half. Good continuity and a chip or two got Combe close to the opposition line. Clean line-out catch, a drive to the line, and James Lindfield peeled off to score nearer the posts. Miki Zanirato converted. 20-21. Ten minutes later, another Combe line-out, this time on the right side. Clean take, drive, and with the second surge, Ryan Hackett was over. No conversion. 20-26, with twenty minutes to go. Combe may have had the better of the third quarter, but now it’s time for the home side to hit back with their danger men: a break by the centre, No. 8 in support and the ball worked left for the winger to score in the corner. 25-26. This is desperately close, as there is still time on the clock. Into the last ten minutes, Combe have a kickable penalty. Miki Zanirato obliges. 26-29. S&E are pinned back but break out twice down the right. Bradley Bateup saves the day twice for Combe. S&E lay siege to Combe’s line, wave after wave battering, pounding away. Ant Hitchcock strips the ball from them and Combe win a penalty under their own posts. There cannot be much longer. Kick to touch and relieve the siege! But the kick does not go to touch, S&E come again. The pressure is relentless, but Combe seem to be holding out, until with one last lunge S&E get the touch down, and with it the final whistle. 30-29.
Bitterly disappointing for Combe. Fine margins, but it’s coming. Two bonus points, perhaps Combe deserved more. Two more injuries. Next week Combe are at home to Guildford, kick-off 3.00pm and with a lunch beforehand (see the web site for details).
Westcombe Park XV: B. Bateup; J. Livett, A. Hitchcock, B. Saffery, D. Hamilton; J. Cameron, M. Zanirato; J. Simmons, L. Covington, J. Forsyth, T. Calohard, T. Clarke, R. Hackett, J. Lindfield, C. O’Sullivan.
Bench: J. Stanford, J. Dennett, S. Pursell.