Clarke left proud of his side after spirited defeat

BRUISING ENCOUNTER: Both sides look to assert their dominance in  a scrum during Saturday's match
BRUISING ENCOUNTER: Both sides look to assert their dominance in a scrum during Saturday's match
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LONDON THREE

NORTH EAST

Stowmarket 17

Sudbury 22

Stowmarket RFC coach Colin Clarke was left proud of his side despite the club slipping to a third straight defeat at home to table-topping Sudbury.

Ahead of a festive break, the result ensured Stowmarket will end the year in the bottom half of the table, sitting eighth after an inconsistent first-half of the season.

Despite conceding there is room for improvement after their return to action, Clarke is confident there are positives to take as they aim to build on a steady start.

“We are looking forward to the Christmas break and hopefully we can come back in the new year and build on the start of the season,” he said.

“Despite the result I’m proud of the boys and I can’t argue with their efforts.

“The campaign so far has been what we expected and there are areas we can learn from.

“However, everything is looking relatively positive and the aim is to build on what we’ve done so far and possibly move up the table.”

It was the home side who opened the scoring after 14 minutes as Dan Garrard slotted over a simple penalty from in front of the posts.

However, it was not long until the visitors showed their class with the first unconverted try of the afternoon to respond.

A flowing move down the right-hand side saw Toby White release Matt Johnson who broke through two tackles to power his way over in the corner.

That momentum continued with Sudbury, who added a second unconverted try just eight minutes later.

Following a prolonged period of pressure in the right-hand corner, Sam Conning managed to force his way through a crowd of bodies to score.

The visitors extended their lead to 15-3 moments before the break as Chris Lewis crashed over, again Ben Stanton saw his conversion attempt fall narrowly short in the swirling wind.

The home side started the second half at a blistering pace and reduced the deficit six minutes after the restart as Dudley Mennie scored between the posts with Garrard converting.

However, as they did in the first half, Sudbury responded well to the setback and added a further try in the 68th minute as Ben Stanton off-loaded to Charles Jackson to score in the left corner.

Stanton stepped up and converted brilliantly from the tight angle to leave the score at 22-10.

The home side refused to rest on their laurels and rallied to dominate proceedings late on.

And following a period of prolonged pressure they reduced the lead to just five points as Ali Vivian forced his way through the defensive line.

Garrard was again successful with the conversion to ensure a nervy final few moments for the visitors.

Despite further pressure, Sudbury held out to maintain their perfect winning record.