By Alex Lambe @rugby_lambo214
A dominant 1st half display from the EEE’s is not enough as the Knights mount a 2nd half comeback to regain top spot
On a chilly November’s day it was Esher’s biggest game of the season thus far and the boys knew a big performance was required if they were to beat pre-season favourites for promotion, Doncaster.
It was all Doncaster in the opening exchanges as they strung some nice phases together putting Esher on the back foot. The pressure soon told as number eight Adam Kettle burst through a gap in the Esher defence and cantered in from half-way. Centre Dougie Flockhart converted for an early 7-0 lead after 6 minutes.
Doncaster began to dominate open play however mistakes were beginning to creep into their game and Esher began to dominate the set piece. Their dominance was clearly evident as they won a penalty in the next scrum with a powerful drive.
A great touch finder from fly-half Tom Whelan set up territory in the Doncaster half. After building some good phases together Doncaster was caught offside in midfield resulting in a penalty shot for Luke Daniels. His kick sailed through the uprights to close the gap at 7-3 to Doncaster after 21 minutes.
Another penalty against Doncaster for offside brought a 2nd opportunity for Daniels to close the gap once more. He duly obliged to make the score 7-6 in Doncaster’s favour after 30 minutes.
Esher was beginning to take advantage of the possession they had and it told with a try for prop Dave Millard. A fantastic scything break from fly-half Whelan set up territory in the Knights’ 22. A series of powerful pick and drives followed before Millard barged his way over. Luke Daniels missed the conversion but the EEE’s now led 11-7 with 6 minutes of the 1st half remaining.
Late drama followed at the end of the 1st half. After a Daniels penalty shot at goal drifted wide Doncaster centre Bevon Armitage seemed to be taken out by a late tackle from Esher second row Alex Bibic. A fracas ensued and Bibic was sent to the bin along with Knights winger Tyson Lewis for his retaliation.
The whistle was then blown for half-time.
HALF-TIME: Doncaster 7-11 Esher
Both teams re-entered the fray for the 2nd half down to 14 men.
The response from Doncaster in the 2nd half was swift as number eight Adam Kettle powered his way over the whitewash for his 2nd try of the game. Fly-half Elliot Davies couldn’t convert the try but Doncaster had re-taken the lead at 12-11 with 45 minutes gone.
Esher wasn’t afraid to run the ball with ambition but lacked the crucial finishing touch with a lot of errors and passes going astray. An opportunity down the right flank was closed at by some brilliant Knights covering defence as Esher winger Smith was bundled into touch.
Doncaster began to re-assert their 2nd half dominance and it told as Matt Turner went over from a very well executed catch and drive from the home side. Replacement Paul Roberts converted the try to take the Knights beyond a converted try at 19-11 with 65 minutes gone.
Esher threw everything they had at the Doncaster defence in the last 10 minutes but could not find a breakthrough with a series of knock-ons proving their downfall.
With that the whistle was blown for full-time and it brought an end to a fantastic game of rugby. Esher put in a very brave performance which they can take a lot of heart from. Next is a derby away trip to Rosslyn Park.
FULL-TIME: Doncaster 19-11 Esher