Dings Crusaders 45 Esher 33
National Division 2 South
Saturday January 4 2020
So often masters of the comeback in the old year, Esher looked set for another victorious rally in their first outing of 2020 only to be beaten by a pair of late tries.
Having been 31-14 down at half time, they dominated the next 30 minutes of the match and three unanswered tries put them ahead by two points only for Dings Crusaders to grab back the match through a double strike in the dying stages.
It was Esher's seventh defeat of the season and saw them slip into the bottom half of the 16-strong division, all the more disappointing against a side who they beat 54-19 back in September.
Director of rugby Peter Winterbottom had called for a more positive approach from his side away from home but six reverses out of nine on the road demonstrates why an immediate return to Division One is steadily looking like a dream, even though they have a game in hand on most of the teams above.
Dings were ahead in the second minute through hooker George Kloska, converted by Steve Plummer, but the visitors – playing on a 4G pitch for the first time – were quickly level as full-back Calum Monks went over, Tristan Roberts adding the extras.
Soon the hosts found themselves 19-7 in front when Luke Arcsott and Gavin Curry struck, lock Cameron Gentles interrupting the flow through a converted effort at the other end but seeing Tom Knight and Matt Smith secure Dings a bonus point in making it 31-14 at the break.
Always dangerous when they can gain sufficient possession, Esher hit a hot streak and stunned the home side by going over three times – Jack Walsh struck first, leggy wing James Booth was next and then Ben Davies notched the third, fly-half Roberts converting two of them to nose his side just in front.
But their hopes of claiming victory were left in tatters, No 8 Sam Graham grabbing back the advantage and then Tom Hargan confirming victory for Crusaders, now nine points and just one place below the Surrey side, who had not played since December 14 and will hope to have got the Christmas cobwebs out of their system.
Esher host Bury St Edmunds on Saturday, seeking to avenge a 24-14 defeat when the sides met at the end of September, travelling to Leicester Lions seven days later before Sutton & Epsom visit on January 25