There are games when you leave a ground feeling dejected by your team’s performance or that an opposing player pulled out something magical to win a game but the performance by the Esher 20 was all heart, endeavour and brilliance but yet this wasn’t enough to beat a well drilled pragmatic Ampthill side who can boast a 3-0 record against Esher in the past 18 months.
The game didn’t fire into life until Esher scored a try after 15 minutes played. Some resolute defence caused Ampthill to knock on in the tackle, the ball was hoofed clear by Tom James who collected his clearance before passing the ball inside to James Lang who drew in the last defender and set Cameron Gentles free to score his second in two games. The conversion was made by James Lang and Esher led 0-7.
Esher’s defence continued to impress and they were more than happy to attack from deep and could have been 0-14 up if it hadn’t been for a last ditch clearance from the Ampthill fullback in the in-goal area. From the resulting scrum Esher extended their lead with a James Lang penalty. 0-10 with 23 minutes played.
Within 2 minutes of the restart Ampthill reduced the deficit to 3 with a forward worked try after Esher were strangely penalized at the scrum. With a quick tap and a few pick and goes Ampthill bludgeoned their way over the try line. The conversion was good, Ampthill 7-10 Esher.
Esher responded with plenty of territory and possession but it was Ampthill who would score next in similar fashion to their first, with pick and goes around the corner to score under the posts, the conversion was made and they led 14-10 at half time.
After the restart, Esher continued to attack and were unfortunate to find themselves further behind after plenty of territory and possession. Ampthill forced Esher into an error and they cleared their lines with the assistance of a penalty, they set themselves for a driving lineout which was halted but they continued to make inroads with pick and goes from their front 8 and they eventually worked it out wide where they scored their third try of the game, the conversion was missed and they led by 19-10 with well over 30 minutes to play.
The next ten minutes was all Esher even though Ampthill extended their led with a penalty to 22-10. Spencer Sutherland nearly played Cameron Gentles through who was looking to add to his try in the first half, James Lang was side stepping and jinking through the first line defence but Esher failed to nail the final pass. The Ampthill team were beginning to tire and Esher took full advantage from a scrum deep in their own half. The ball was picked up at the base by Peter Synnott who ran hard and fast into tackle, the ball was recycled quickly out to the wing where Tom James kicked the ball through the defence of Ampthill, the ball popped up to Gabriel Ibitoye who drew in the last defender and passed inside where Andrew Garner was waiting to score the try under the posts, James Lang confidently drop kicked the conversion over. 22-17 with 20 minutes to play.
Esher scored again within 5 minutes of the restart with another try from deep. After a few phases of forward pick and goes, Andrew Garner placed a grubber kick behind the Ampthill line, which he collected by himself, he was tackled but the ball was recycled quickly to Stephen Boatman who had replaced Tom Cheeseman, he saw that there was space out wide and passed inside to the busy Gabriel Ibitoye. Gabriel pinned his ears back and put on the “after burners” and scorched through the Ampthill defence seemingly bouncing off tackles, he again drew in the last defender and unselfishly put in a little kick for James Lang to score Esher’s third try of the game. He duly converted and Esher led again 22-24 with 10 minutes to go.
Esher continued to play expansive, attacking fifteen man rugby, trying to get the try bonus point and seal the win. But with a contentious penalty decision at the breakdown Ampthill cleared their lines and from another driving lineout they secured the ball and kept it close to the breakdown for them to score under the posts. They secured a try bonus point with 5 minutes left in the game.
After the restart it was all Esher as they attempted to win the game, wave after wave of Esher attack hit against the Ampthill defence but they held firm. In the last play of the game Esher had a chance to win the game out wide as they had sucked in the Ampthill players with a game plan similar to their own. The ball went through the hands of the Esher backline but the final pass was behind the free Tom James who could have scored in the corner to level the game up, but we will never know if the conversion would have been successful.
Ampthill held on, 29-24.
Tries: Cameron Gentles, Andrew Garner, James Lang
Conversions: James Lang (3)
Penalties: James Lang