For the seventh time this season, Sutton & Epsom surrendered a first half lead in their London Division One match at Rugby Lane against Hove on Saturday, losing 31-7.

Sutton, with fiery hooker James Bennett back in the side for the first time in two years, looked a different side, matching Hove in all aspects and having slightly better of the forward encounter but they let themselves down in the second half with some weak tackling and play which allowed the visitors to run in four second half tries.

Hove have a very useful set of backs who come on to the ball from depth and at pace and when Sutton went to Hove earlier in the season they carved Sutton apart winning 48-0.

In the first on Saturday Sutton mastered this closing Hove down and forcing their fly half to kick away huge amounts of possession which allowed Sutton to develop attacks of their own.

Sutton opened the scoring with a superbly worked try when No8 Matt Whitacker sped out of defence committed the Hove right wing and gave the perfect pass outside to speeding winger Andy Nicholls who rounded the full back to score under the posts. Full back Steve Warnham converted for Sutton to lead 7-0 after 25 minutes.

Sutton appeared at this stage to be in control but just before half time Hove won lineout ball on the Sutton 22 Hoves scrum half Brad Parker dummied and broke through the Sutton defence passed outside to left wing Ryan Bhimji who powered his way through to score midway to the posts. The conversion attempt went wide and at half time Sutton still held the lead 7-5.

Almost from the kick off Hove won line out ball 30 metres from Sutton’s line, the ball went out to Bhimji, who handed off one tackler and then weaved his way through to score. Fly Half Phillips converted.

Minutes later, the visitors increased their lead when following a five metres lineout the pack drove in for hooker Sam O’Brien to get the try. The conversion was missed.

Sutton stuck to their guns and showing no small skill developed a promising attack of their own only for disaster to strike when centre Kevin Holder ran into contact on the Hove 10 metres line had the ball stripped from him by Hove’s full back Tom LeMehaute who ran in under the posts from 60 metres. Phillips converted.

Sutton continued to attack but with seconds to go in the game, turned ball over in midfield and Hoves scrum half Brad Parker ran in from 30 metres. Phillips converted with the lst kick of the match.

On Saturday Sutton are away at Trojans Kick off 2.30pm.

Sutton are still waiting to find out who they play in the semi final of the Surrey Trophy, either Old Reigations or Wimbledon, their quarter final must be played by 17th March.