Louie Tang try double helps earn Shelford victory at title rivals Sudbury in London League 1N
Shelford are in pole position for the London League 1N title after a 35-15 win at nearest rivals Sudbury.
It was first versus second at Whittome Field, with Shelford holding a narrow one-point advantage over their rivals and the victor knowing that the race for the title would be in their own destiny.
The bus loads of Shelford fans were making all the noise ahead of kick-off, and they were first to celebrate during the game with a try arriving inside five minutes.
Sudbury lost the ball in the ruck and left wing Louie Tang finished things off down the side after Tom James' darting run saw him break through. Lewis Cracknell managed to add the tricky conversion.
A few minutes later Sudbury got the ball down themselves only for the referee to call things back for a knock-on infringement.
Uncharacteristic handling errors were hindering the hosts while there were no such nerves on show from Shelford who were looking like a well-oiled machine. Not only were they moving the ball well but their apparent physical advantage was also being used to good effect.
Midway through the half a penalty in front of the posts saw Cracknell extend their lead to 10-0.
But within a minute Sudbury had their first points on the board as they broke at pace down the right-hand side with Austin Beckett arching in his run to touch down.
Shelford responded with some strong phases that earned a penalty with Cracknell's decision to opt for a 30-metre kick proving a good one to make it 13-5.
The hosts enjoyed some good territory late in the half but there were sighs from their supporters as the momentum was lost following a deep line-out ball not being straight.
They were made to pay by the Peacocks a few minutes before half-time with Charlie Baker taking a quick tap penalty midway inside Sudbury’s 22 to dart over. Cracknell added the easy kick to take the scoreline to 20-5.
Playing down the slope with the wind at their backs in the second period, Sudbury found themselves forced back early on.
The third try for the visitors duly arrived in the 46th minute with a turnover ball secured before Miles Anderson had the legs to get over the line. Cracknell made no mistake from the tee to make it 27-5.
A great twisting run from 30 metres from number 8 Henry Cowling saw the home fans find their voice again in the 52nd minute, though Rust was unable to convert it into seven points as the score moved to 27-10.
Hopes of a comeback for the Suffolk side were raised when, with 15 minutes to play, they gained a numerical advantage with Harry Rogerson shown a yellow card.
Sudbury went on to score their third try a few minutes later after patiently building the phases before punishing their opponents for conceding a penalty. Jake Thurlow got over from the resultant pick-and-drive, though Sam Bixby's conversion attempt missed to leave the score at 27-15.
Back up to 15 men, Shelford increased the gap to 15 points via a Cracknell penalty kick from 30m.
It left Sudbury pressing for the next try that would have bagged them two losing bonus points.
But they were reduced to 14 men late on when James Porter was shown a red card for fighting.
Shelford pushed on late on for another score and got their rewards when play was out wide left for Tang to make up the final metres for his second try of the day.
The bonus-point win means Shelford now have a six-point margin over Sudbury, and have broken the 100-point tally with three games remaining.
They have an unassailable 17-point advantage over third-placed Harpenden and need a maximum two more wins to confirm the title, having only lost once in 23 fixtures this season.
Their next game is at home to Amersham & Chiltern next Saturday (April 2).