Suttonians’ men got 2023 off to the best possible start with a hard earned 17-15 victory away from home over Kilkenny in bitterly cold conditions. The home side had the advantage of a strong wind and looked to build an early lead but despite constant pressure they were made to work very hard for it. The visitors set piece was dominant throughout, the front row of Jack Walters, Peter Reilly and Conor Kelly gave their opposite numbers a torrid afternoon at scrum time and despite the difficult conditions the lineout functioned admirably, losing just one ball on their own throw and flanker Matthew Linehan proving a thorn in the side of the Kilkenny hooker on their put-in.
While the first 40 minutes were mainly played in the Suttonians half of the pitch they were not without opportunities of their own, a thrilling break from their line involving Linehan, Matthew Byrne, Darragh Henry, Darragh Kelly and Joe Kelly eventually came to nothing when the ball was dropped but it gave welcome relief and Walters was very unlucky just before the break to spill the ball in the process of grounding what would have been a well deserved try.
Suttonians would have felt comfortable at the break, being just 10 nil behind with the conditions in their favour for the second 40 but it got off to the worst possible start, conceding a 5 pointer from deep and suddenly the task looked far more formidable. However with captain Rory Litchfield playing an inspirational role they kept hammering at the Kilkenny defence.
A penalty in front of the posts gave out-half Jack Usser the opportunity to start the scoreboard ticking and thereafter the visitors kept the pressure on. Yet again Brian Digan was immense off the bench and it was he who crossed for the first try after sustained pressure, Ussher adding the extras. Kilkenny had their moments but the Suttonians’ defence stood firm and after more pressure, Digan crossed for his second after great work by the pack.
With the score tied at 15 each, Ussher coolly struck over the winning conversion. There was plenty of injury time to be played out and Kilkenny were awarded what could have been a match winning penalty but inexplicably they chose to take a scrum rather than attempt the kick in the easing wind. Special mention too for former St. Fintan’s High School captain Reuben Cantwell who made his 1st team debut off the bench in a very busy and effective 20 minutes.
The final whistle went and cue great celebrations, although the Sutton men had beaten the same opposition relatively comfortably earlier in the season on Station Road getting a result on Noreside is never easy, Kilkenny having beaten league leaders Bective earlier in the season. The team is set up nicely now for the following 2 weekends where they host old foes Ashbourne and Seapoint.
Earlier that day the 2nds went down against the Kilkenny men. They were in the game at half time but the shallow squad numbers on the day told as the hosts ran out eventual winners on a score line of 33-20.
As the IRFU continue to prevaricate around the women’s club game, the Sutton girls are on a break at the minute while the interprovincials are on. They will be back in action at the end of the month. Sutton girls are well represented though with Carrie, Mary and captain Catherine all involved with Leinster, Brenda and Amber with Ulster and Shannon with Connacht. The girls also held a very successful dinner dance earlier this month, a nice way to begin the fundraising effort for a forthcoming tour to France.