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Esher knock Darlington off 2nd spot

Esher vs Darlington Mowden Park

Match Report, Saturday 4th November 2017

 

Esher recorded back to back wins for the first time this season on Saturday, securing a 33-26 bonus point victory over high-flying visitors Darlington Mowden Park in an absorbing contest at Molesey Road. 

For the second week in a row, Esher were able to overcome one of the top sides in the division, although the hosts nearly made the worst possible start to the afternoon when the ball was spilled in the home 22 directly from the kick-off, leading to an early spell of Darlington pressure.  Esher’s defence held firm however, and after winning a penalty to turn over possession, it was the home side who opened the scoring through a Ben Loader try in the 8th minute. 

Having worked their way into the visitor’s half the ball was spread quickly towards the left-hand touchline, where fly-half Paul Roberts made a sharp break before offloading to Lloyd Davies.  The Esher full-back carried on the move before timing his pass to perfection and putting wing Loader over in the corner.  Roberts added the conversion to take the score to Esher 7-Darlington 0.

The Darlington response was swift however, when a line break and strong run just inside the Esher half was finished under the posts by wing Shaun McCartney.  Brett Connon added the conversion to level the scores at 7-7after 11 minutes.

Esher were now beginning to assert themselves, and when a dominant scrum just inside the Darlington half was awarded with a penalty, the home side duly opted to kick for the corner.  From the resulting lineout, the Esher forwards launched a powerful driving maul from around 15 yards out.  The visitor’s defence was unable to hold the drive up, and when the ball was carried over the line, Esher hooker Billy Harding was the man in possession to score the try.  Paul Roberts was unsuccessful with the conversion, leaving the score at Esher 12-Darlington 7.

Following more Esher pressure in the Darlington half, a turnover by No.8 Harrison Collins gave wing Tom James the platform to score from close range in the 27th minute.  Paul Roberts added the extras, to increase Esher’s lead to 19-7.

The home side secured their bonus point try in the 38th minute, when more good work from the Esher pack allowed Tom James to score his second try of the afternoon close to the posts.  Roberts added the conversion to take the half-time score to Esher 26-Darlington 7.

After the restart it was Esher who dominated possession for the first 10 minutes, going in search of a further score to put the game beyond the visitor’s reach.  The Darlington defence held out well however, and having eventually turned the ball over it was the visitors who went up the other end to score the first try of the half.  An incisive line break just inside the Esher half from Brett Connon resulted in quick ball being spread to left wing Brandon Asher-Wood, who raced away to score in the corner.  The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score at Esher 26-Darlington 12 after 51 minutes.

Esher responded with their fifth try of the afternoon 5 minutes later, when Ben Loader finished off a free flowing move which turned the visiting defence inside out.  Starting from deep within their own half, the Esher backs worked the ball out towards the left, where centre Joe Brown shaped as if to take on his man on the outside, but at the last second feinted and cut infield to wrong-foot the defence.  Racing through the gap, Brown passed inside to Andy Garner who evaded the next tackle before charging forward and finding centre Chris Arnold in support to his left.  The Esher centre went on a mazy run towards the line, before finally passing back inside to Loader to score under the posts and bring the home supporters to their feet.  Roberts added the conversion to take Esher’s lead back up to 33-12 after 56 minutes.

Darlington fought back again, and following a change of personnel in the forwards, the visitors began to take charge of possession and territory.  The pressure eventually told when a dominant scrum on the Esher line was awarded with a penalty try in the 69th minute, bringing the score to Esher 33-Darlington 19.

The visitors were now sensing a way back into the game, and following a succession of penalties and strong carries from their forwards, they quickly worked their way back into the Esher 22.  Another scrum on the Esher try line was awarded with a penalty, and with the referee playing advantage, the ball was passed out to the left for flanker Joe Craggs to score their bonus point try in the corner with 4 minutes left on the clock.  Connon added a difficult conversion from the touchline, to bring the score to Esher 33-Darlington 26 and set up a tense finish.

With Darlington in the ascendancy and seeking to level the scores, the Esher players summoned up one final effort and rallied to keep the visitors pinned back in their own 22.  During an extended spell of possession, Darlington piled forward and launched a relentless assault against their opponents, but Esher defended resolutely to ensure that they were unable to cross the gain line.  And when the referee awarded the home side with a penalty, Paul Roberts gratefully took a quick tap before kicking the ball into touch to seal a famous win for the men in black and amber.

 

 

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