LAST GAME
ESHER RUGBY VS
Darlington Mowden Park
03 March , National 1
 
ESHER RUGBY 28
Blackheath 29
17 February , National 1
Match report
Main sponsors Bonnar Allan
JLT Group

Esher draw with Ampthill in a home game thriller

 

Esher suffered the agony of conceding a last minute score for the second week in a row on Saturday, after being held to a battling 29-29 draw against third placed Ampthill.  On another afternoon of high drama at Molesey Road, the home side fought back from a half-time deficit of 16 points to lead the match going into the closing stages, only for the visitors to draw level with the final kick of the game.

 

 

Looking to put the disappointment of the previous week’s last gasp defeat behind them, the hosts got off to the worst possible start when a line break just inside the Esher half created space for Ampthill full-back James Pritchard to outstrip the covering defence and run in under the posts.  The conversion was added to the make the score 7-0 to the visitors after just 4 minutes.

 

 

After the setback of the early score, Esher recovered well and replied with their first try of the match in the 12th minute.  Kicking a penalty to touch, the Esher forwards gathered the ball from the lineout and launched a driving maul from outside the Ampthill 22.  Initially there seemed little prospect of scoring directly from the lineout, but as the forwards continued to rumble towards the line, the drive gathered momentum and the Ampthill defence was unable to prevent prop Karl Furey from crashing over for the try.  The conversion went wide, leaving the score at Esher 5-Ampthill 7.

 

 

Esher were back on the scoresheet again 4 minutes later, and if the first try owed much to the collective muscle of the pack, the second was down to a great piece of individual finishing by winger Tom James.  Receiving the ball midway inside the Ampthill half, James cut inside the first man before taking the outside channel and accelerating past three more defenders to score in the left-hand corner.  The conversion struck the upright, leaving Esher with a 10-7 lead after 16 minutes.

 

 

The Esher lead was short lived however, when a series of strong carries from the Ampthill pack sucked in the home defence and resulted in an overlap for winger Sam Baker to score out wide in the 20th minute.  James Pritchard added the conversion to take the score to Esher 10-Ampthill 14. 

 

 

Ampthill’s forwards were beginning to impose themselves in the loose by this stage, with their abrasive ball carrying providing the platform for the backs to spread the ball wide at pace and stretch the Esher defence.  As the pressure continued to mount, the visitors were duly rewarded with a third try when second row Billy Johnson went over from close range.  The conversion was unsuccessful, to leave the score at Esher 10-Ampthill 19 after 27 minutes.

 

 

The visitors wrapped up their bonus point try just before half-time, when the Esher defence failed to deal with a chip ahead in the home 22 and full-back Pritchard was on hand to ground the ball over the line.  Pritchard converted his own try to bring the score at half-time to Esher 10-Ampthill 26.

 

 

Whatever was said at the interval seemed to have the desired effect on the home side, as Esher came out firing after the break.  The opening exchanges of the half provided little indication of what was to come, but after working their way into the opposition 22, the Esher forwards launched another driving maul towards the Ampthill line.  As the visiting defence struggled to contain the drive, the home forwards found another gear and powered over for flanker Charlie Gossington to come up with the score under the posts.  Stephen Boatman added the conversion to reduce the arrears to 9 points with 49 minutes played.

 

 

Scrum-half Andy Garner came close to scoring again a few minutes later, when a move started from deep inside the Esher half nearly resulted in a spectacular try in the left-hand corner.  Esher were not to be denied for long however, and they soon secured their bonus point try when hooker Billy Harding barged over to score from close range in the 62nd minute.  The conversion was wide, but the gap was down to just 4 points.

 

 

Esher were in the ascendancy now, and the comeback was completed in the 68th minute when winger Caden Murley spotted a gap in the defence, cut inside and sped past the cover to score from around 20 yards out.  Boatman added the conversion, giving Esher a lead of 3 points with just over 10 minutes to play

 

 

Having turned the game around, Esher continued to pile forward in search of another score to put the result beyond doubt, but as the clock ticked down and home supporters began to dream of a precious league victory, there was to be one final twist in the afternoon’s proceedings.

 

 

With around two minutes left of normal time, Ampthill turned over possession in their own half and launched a series of phases to fight their way back into Esher territory.  The visitors surged forward, summoning up one final effort to save the game, and with 82 minutes showing on the clock were duly rewarded for their endeavours with a penalty in front of the posts.  Molesey Road fell silent as Pritchard stepped up to take the kick, and when the ball sailed over to level the scores, the referee’s whistle blew to signal an end to a great contest.

 

 

Once the dust has settled, Esher will no doubt reflect on another afternoon of what might have been, but they can also take great pride in a dominant second half performance against quality opposition and securing 3 valuable league points in the process.

 

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