Guildford pulled off a remarkable away victory over league leaders Sutton & Epsom on Saturday, securing a four try bonus point before half time to win 25-29.
Conceding the lead with ten minutes to go after a ferocious fightback by the home side and then scoring a last gasp try rounded off a fantastic effort from the team. The victory was all the more remarkable for a side with a makeshift second row with Jamie Roberts, a back row stalwart from several seasons previously, making his season debut alongside Matt Poole who shifted between the engine room and the tighthead several time during the match. The team sheet saw Sam Kettle return from a lay off to the open side, with Dan Wallis starting his second game at blind side. A member of the Godalming College first team captained by team mate Jonny Burden, Wallis looks a fine prospect for the future and has a great mentor in skipper Joe Garner, starting alongside him at number 8.
The game kicked off with Guildford playing with a tricky cross-wind and receiving the kick. When Guildford cleared their lines to the half way, Sutton tried to put the ball wide with a number of passes on the gain line. Tom Jeffery was standing flat in the defensive line, however, and simply ran on to a miss pass on the half way and cantered through to touch down for a converted try, 0-7. After the restart Guildford won a penalty on the half way which fly half Pete Hodgkinson put into the corner for a lineout. Sutton defended the throw and initial drive well, but when the Guildford pack splintered off led by Bill Mairs, the home side were unable to contain the additional drive and after the referee signalled the score and the bodies cleared Harry Phillips was clutching the ball, 0-12. This seemed to sting the home side into action and they opened their account with an unconverted try, 5-12.
From the restart Guildford continued to defened well, a feature all afternoon. When Guildford regained possession, Hodgkinson pushed Sutton back into their 22 with a weighted grubber kick which they tried to run out of defence. Guildford’s chase was solid though, and from the tackle Sam Kettle won a trademark penalty for ‘failing to release’. Hodgkinson again pushed the ball into the corner and Guildord scored from the lineout – a carbon copy of their second try, driving outside of Sutton’s defensive set up to take Phillips over once more for an unconverted try, 5-17.
Guildford’s fourth try came from another weighted kick by Hodgkinson and a strong chase by Jeffery who tackled the Sutton player and turned the ball over deep in the home 22. The turnover ball went through a couple of phases before going wide with Andy Jones being brought down just short of the line. With the backs clearing the tackle area, Tom Hartry stole down a very short side from a yard out to score Guildford’s fourth and bonus-point try, to leave the shocked home looking at a 5-22 deficit at half time.
Sutton came out at half time with the wind in their favour and showed why they were top of the table, fighting all the way back to take a 25-22 lead with minutes to go. Guildford were still battling hard however, and worked a clearance kick back up the field through multiple phases before Hodgkinson went blind and chipped for Alex Jordan, who ran on to a bobbling ball to score under the posts to give Guildford back the lead. The game was not quite done, Guildford having to defend after the restart through 23 pulsating phases that pushed them back to yards from their line before their defensive discipline held out, Sutton lost the ball forward and the referee blew the whistle on a fantastic victory.
The second successive 5 point victory leaves Guildford 7th in the league with Dave Ward’s squad heading into an off weekend for a well-deserved rest before rejoining hostilities with a home game against Tring on Saturday 23rd March.