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Craig Burrows feels Whittome Field crowd can give Sudbury Rugby Club the edge in title showdown with Shelford



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The roar of the home crowd at Whittome Field on Saturday can play a key role in Sudbury taking a big step towards claiming the London 1 North title to seal automatic promotion.

That is the view of Blues head coach Craig Burrows ahead of 80 mouth-watering minutes of rugby that is set to play a telling role in whether the trophy ends up in Suffolk or Cambridgeshire.

Shelford visit Great Cornard for the 3pm kick-off currently topping the table by a point with just four matches left to play.

It is expected the crowd at Whittome Field will surpass even the number that packed in around the pitch for their derby with Colchester in earlier February Picture: Mecha Morton
It is expected the crowd at Whittome Field will surpass even the number that packed in around the pitch for their derby with Colchester in earlier February Picture: Mecha Morton

The last time the sides met, in November, it was a last-gasp penalty which denied Sudbury victory in the stormy conditions as they had to settle for a 13-all draw.

“We saw the crowd really pushed them on for that and hopefully we can turn that against them on Saturday in one of the most crucial games of the season,” said Burrows, whose side are gearing up to return from a planned rest weekend along with their upcoming opponents.

“I am expecting it to be a fully packed out ground – I would say we usually average 200 to 300 and with Saturday it could be around the 500 mark. They will be getting behind the boys and can be our 16th man.”

Recently-appointed captain Sam Bixby kicking in front of the Whittome Field crowd against Southend Saxons Picture: Mecha Morton
Recently-appointed captain Sam Bixby kicking in front of the Whittome Field crowd against Southend Saxons Picture: Mecha Morton

Sudbury – who have only lost twice this season in 22 fixtures – won 36-26 at mid-table Amersham & Chiltern the weekend before last with a much-changed side.

But the injuries and unavailability issues have cleared up ahead of this weekend, to Burrows’ relief.

“We look to have a full squad for the first time since before Christmas so I am really pleased as it could not have come at a better time,” he said, while also revealing one of the second XV players who stepped up last time out, left wing Gareth Pugh, is set to retain his place.

Sam Bixby, who returned to his boyhood club ahead of the 2019/20 season following a successful spell with National League Bury St Edmunds where he won a player of the year award, will lead the team out after being made permanent captain. Frazer Beckett, who had been alternating the armband with him, has been appointed vice captain.

Sudbury head coach Craig Burrows, who came across in the summer having previously been a backs coach at National League Bury St Edmunds Picture: Mark Westley
Sudbury head coach Craig Burrows, who came across in the summer having previously been a backs coach at National League Bury St Edmunds Picture: Mark Westley

Of facing Shelford, who have won nine matches on the bounce since that draw on November 27, Burrows said: “We are very confident about it as we put up a good show when we played the game away in very stormy weather.

“It was basically a 10-man (a side) game so we are looking forward to bringing our backs into play against them.”

He added: “It’s looking perfect conditions – dry for a good running rugby game.

Sudbury have only lost twice so far this season in London 1 North Picture: Mecha Morton
Sudbury have only lost twice so far this season in London 1 North Picture: Mecha Morton

“I am actually getting excited just talking about it.

“We had done a bit of homework on them, watching a few games to get a good understanding of where we can attack and hurt them.”

It will be Sudbury’s penultimate home game of the campaign with third bottom Norwich (12th) to visit on April 9 in between away trips to Old Haberdashers (9th) and current third-placed Harpenden.