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Esher lose narrowly to Plymouth Albion

Esher vs Plymouth Albion

Match Report, Saturday 23rd December 2017, by Philip Wigley


Esher suffered a second home defeat in a row on Saturday, losing narrowly to third placed Plymouth Albion in the final match before the festive break.  In recent years the pre-Christmas game at Molesey Road has failed to live up to expectations, but both sides served up a highly entertaining display for the supporters this time around, with Esher gaining two valuable bonus points while ultimately going down 33-29 to the west country visitors.

From the first whistle, the two teams started the game at a high intensity, with Esher making early inroads through the ball carrying of the back-row, and Plymouth combining good line-speed in the backs with some powerful runs from their forwards to stretch the home defence.  Neither side manged to score in the first quarter of the game, but it was Esher who made the breakthrough after 21 minutes, when flanker Tom Whitehurst muscled his way over for the first try from close range, following a spell of pressure from the home side.  Paul Roberts added the conversion to make the score Esher 7-Plymouth 0.

The Plymouth response was almost immediate however, when flanker Sam Daly was on hand to receive the ball following a line break just outside the Esher 22 and run in under the posts.  Fly-half Dan Mugford added the conversion to level the scores after 23 minutes. 

A second try for the visitors quickly followed from the restart, when a well worked move down the left-hand flank was finished off in the corner by scrum-half Cameron Setter.  Mugford added the conversion from the touchline to take the score to 14-7 in Plymouth’s favour.

Worse was to follow for the home side when Plymouth scored again 4 minutes later, with winger Matt Crosscombe going over in the left-hand corner for another smartly taken try.  Mugford slotted the conversion and from leading 7-0 a few minutes earlier, Esher now found themselves 21-7 down.

With the home side reeling from a 3 try blitz in the space of just 6 minutes, they then went on to show great composure and determination to fight their way back into the game.  Kicking a penalty deep into the Plymouth 22, the Esher forwards collected the ball from the lineout and launched a driving maul towards the line.  Plymouth initially managed to hold the drive, but when the mass of bodies eventually crashed over the try line, it was Esher prop Karl Furey who came up with the score to bring his side back into contention.  Roberts added the conversion to reduce the score to Esher14-Plymouth 21 after 34 minutes.

Clearly lifted by the second try, Esher upped their tempo and were soon rewarded with a third score just 3 minutes later.  Receiving the ball midway inside the Plymouth half, winger Ben Loader feinted before sidestepping his opposite number and accelerating down the touchline.  With the left-hand corner well marked, Loader passed inside for centre Dan Rowland to race home from 10 metres out and score his first try for the club.  Paul Roberts added the conversion to make the score 21-21.

Esher were in the ascendancy now and began to pile forward in search of what 10 minutes earlier would have seemed an improbable bonus point try.  Working their way into the Plymouth 22, the Esher backs quickly spread the ball wide towards the right-hand touchline, but with a two-on-one overlap opening up the ball was spilled in the contact and the referee brought an epic first half to a conclusion.

The second half picked up where the first had left off, but it was the visitors who secured the next score after 43 minutes when a loose ball was gathered in the Esher 22 by the Plymouth backs.  Spreading the ball wide towards the right-hand touchline before the home defence could realign, the visiting back line combined well to put winger Matt Crosscombe over in the corner for his second try of the game.  The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score at Plymouth 26-Esher 21.

Esher battled back again and were duly rewarded in the 50th minute, when prop Cam Zeiss spun out of a tackle and barrelled over to score from close range.  The conversion went wide to leave the score at 26 apiece.

The hosts were enjoying one of their best spells of the match by this stage, and edged into the lead on 57 minutes when Paul Roberts slotted a penalty in front of the posts for not rolling away in the tackle.

Plymouth then began to take control of the next 10 minutes however, and promptly regained the lead in the 66th minute when replacement scrum-half Joe Snow scored from close range.  Mugford added the conversion to bring the score to Esher 29-Plymouth 33.

The visitors had the chance to put the game beyond Esher’s reach with around 5 minutes left on the clock, when the referee awarded them with a penalty in the home side’s 22.  Plymouth opted to take the kick, but the ball went wide of the posts and Esher were still within one score of a victory.  A frantic final few minutes ensued, with Esher throwing everything at the visitors but the Plymouth defence held firm to seal the win and bring an end to an enthralling game of rugby.

Sometimes matches are decided on margins, and on another day Esher’s performance could perhaps have earned them greater reward, but if the home side can continue to produce the same level of intensity and commitment then it should bode well for a bright start to the New Year.

Merry Christmas everyone!



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