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Sutton & Epsom will return with more to prove, says skipper
Sutton & Epsom skipper Matt Whitacker says there is more to come from his charges despite their lofty position at the top of London Division Two South West.
The league action took a break last weekend, and the 25-year-old Whitacker signed off in style with a hat-trick to inspire a 30-15 win over London Cornish the weekend before.
Sutton coach Jeff Parsons described the first of those tries as the best he had seen all season, and he continued to heap praise on the man who took the armband in the summer.
And it has been some turnaround under Whitacker’s leadership – last season Sutton were relegated from London Division One South without winning one game.
“We’ve kept the majority of players from last season but we’ve brought in a couple of new guys in the backs, which is what we needed,” he said.
“We have a new coach and a new fitness coach, which has been key. In short, there’s been a revamp of the whole system which is starting to pay dividends.
“We actually have a game plan, which is not what we had last year, we were rudderless last year and this year there is much more structure and a more professional approach.”
Whitacker is in his third season at the club, and described being handed the armband as a proud moment.
He said: “When I was asked if I wanted it, I was really chuffed and said yes straightaway. It’s an honour.
“I am the kind of skipper that leads from the front. I am less of an emotional team-talker type of guy and more a “do it like this” leader.
“I do the geeing up, but it is not the strongest part of my game, I am learning that as I go along.”
Parsons said: “Matt is one of those captains who does not say very much and instead leads by example. He was, by a country mile, the best player last season and his reward is the captaincy.
“He is very slight but for some reason he is so difficult to bring down. The first try he scored against Cornish was perhaps the best try I have seen all season, he seemed to run through the entire Cornish team.
“Others follow him and when you have a skipper that everyone follows, it is good for the club and the performance.”
And on the try that so impressed Parsons, Whitacker said: “We were doing a move we call the hammer, getting the ball straight from the scrum half to the forward runner.
“I took the ball and I was in my own, a bit isolated really, so I tried to beat the first guy and I got through, and it sort of opened up and I kept running and faced up to a few more people, and eventually got through.
“I remember team-mates outside me calling for the ball but I was thinking I can beat this guy and there’s a gap over there so if I can keep going I have to really.”
Sutton host struggling Teddington this weekend, a match that could be forgotten as it precedes a a top of the table clash at Old Reigatian.
However, in typical skipper form, Whitacker is wary of taking anything for granted, especially after uncharacteristic slip-ups against Old Alleynians and KCS Old Boys recently.
He said: “It is best to take each game as it comes, and I guess that might be why we stumbled in those two games that we lost, because we should have won them.
“We came unstuck – but it highlights that any team can beat any other team in the league.”
He added: “We have tough game against Old Reigatian, which will be a good test, they are second in the league, but if we the next game against Teddington and can then win at Old Reigatian, we should be pretty comfortable at the top. But a lot of things could happen.”