A tale of two halves
By Alex Lambe @rugby_lambo214
A dominant 1st half display secures the victory for Esher despite a strong and spirited second half comeback from Blackheath.
Esher was keen to avenge the defeat to Wharfedale last time out and put themselves back on the straight and narrow against local rivals Blackheath. It was clear from the off that this was going to be a fast paced game as both teams showed intent to run the ball down the wider channels.
Relentless Blackheath pressure in the opening exchanges was met by some fierce Esher defence. Despite having a 5m scrum the away side could not make their pressure count and Esher could breath a sigh of relief when Club was pinged for crossing in midfield.
It was then the home side’s turn to show some attacking flair of their own. A powerful drive up field resulted in the game’s 1st penalty opportunity for Luke Daniels. The full-back struck the ball sweetly between the posts to put Esher on the board and give them a 3-0 lead.
The young man Luke Daniels has been on fire in previous weeks and he opened the Esher try account for the day with a superb individual effort. Picking up the ball just inside the Esher half the full-back weaved and side-stepped his way through some weak Blackheath tackling to score in the corner. Unfortunately his kick drifted to the left of the uprights. Esher led 8-0.
But all the good work for the try was soon undone as Blackheath got their first penalty chance at goal after Esher was penalised for holding on. Fly-half Dave Marshall nailed his kick and closed the gap back to 3 points at 8-3 to Esher.
Back came Esher and more sustained pressure in the Blackheath caused the away side to infringe and as a result they were penalised for hands in the ruck. Luke Daniels made no mistake with penalty shot at goal and extended the gap back to 8 points at 11-3,
Esher then produced a promising spell of attacking rugby in the Blackheath 22 but could not make the pressure and territory count as they was pinged for offside at the breakdown which brought the attack to a halt.
Blackheath then created another penalty opportunity for Dave Marshall when Esher gave a penalty away for offside. The fly-half accuracy with the boot was sublime and slotted the kick to bring Club back within 5 points at 11-6 to Esher. However Esher struck straight back scoring their 2nd try of the game through winger Andy Wright. Flanker Mike Macfarlane making the hard yards in midfield before the ball was spread right and second row Kris Chesney produced a sublime offload for Wright to canter in to score. Luke Daniels produced a superb touchline conversion to extend the gap to 18-6.
Esher was beginning to dominate territory and possession and it resulted in a 3rd try this time for second row Cameron Gentles. Luke Daniels converted the try brilliantly from the touchline once more and that was deemed to be the last action of the half.
HALF-TIME: Esher 25-6 Blackheath
With a strong half-time team talk ringing in their ears Blackheath came back firing after the break and with the 2nd half only a few minutes old. Relentless pressure from the catch and drive created a platform for number eight Tom Stradwick to crash over from close range. Marshall converted and closed the gap to 12 points at 25-13 to Esher.
Luke Daniels pushed the gap back out to 19 points with another penalty goal after 52 mins to make the score 28-13.
It was then Esher’s turn to pile the pressure on Blackheath as a mistake led to a scrum that provided a good attacking platform for the home side. Unfortunately they could not make the territorial advantage count and were met with some stern Club defence.
The pressure then took it’s toll on the away side as a seemingly frustrated Blackheath were soon reduced to 14 men. Flanker Dave Allen shown a yellow card for a late shoulder charge.
Despite the one man advantage Esher could not make it count as a good attack released winger Ashley Smith in space down the left flank but his pass could not go to hand.
After being boosted back to a full squad Blackheath soon made Esher pay for their missed opportunities as centre Markus Burcham rounded an Esher defender to score. Dave Marshall converted once more to reduce the gap to 8 points at 28-20 to the home side.
Blackheath gave it all in the last few minutes in an attempt to salvage something from the game but superb Esher defence kept them at bay with the home side holding them up in the tackle.
The whistle was then blown for full-time. It was great for Esher to get back to winning ways after a disappointing last minute defeat at Wharfedale last time out. Lots to work on ahead of a tough away trip to Worthing next weekend.
FULL-TIME: ESHER 28-20 BLACKHEATH