Esher survival hopes smacked on the Chin
Esher 22 Chinnor 24
Friday March 10
Written by Richard Spiller
Defeat by Chinnor on a freezing Friday night has left Esher with just four matches to save themselves from relegation.
Leading 22-5 at half time, the Surrey side's slump may cost them much more than the game, a particular blow in their centenary year.
Having lost the opening nine matches, following promotion last year, Es won six of the next eight outings to give themselves a fighting chance of survival. But just one victory from the last five outings has wrecked that recovery and defeat by Chinnor – who started only three points ahead – was particularly damaging.
Victory for Taunton over Darlington Mowden Park on Saturday sent Es back into the bottom three relegation zone and now they must win at least two of the last four matches – starting with a trip to basement boys Hull on March 25 – to have a chance of escaping.
It all started so encouragingly for Esher on Friday, taking the lead after just four minutes as a driving maul set up No 8 Jack Rouse to force his way over, Sam Morley converting.
Chinnor responded within five minutes, a turnover on the right allowing full-back Will Feeney to clear to the 22m line. That provided the ideal opportunity for the Oxfordshire club to underline the forward power which would prove instrumental to their success, a driving maul enabling hooker Reece Marshall to go over, although the conversion was wasted.
Chinnor dominated many of the lineouts but Esher made the most of one success on 20 minutes, moving the ball across to the right for young wing Joe Parkes to dive over for his second try in as many matches, the extras missed.
As so often, the hosts had fly-half Sam Morley to thank for dominating play, constantly harrying his opponents, underlining his quality on 34 minutes with a slick feed for centre Myles Rawstron-Rudd to power through the middle and then converting for 22-5.
Chinnor's frustration with Morley was such that flanker Max Heathman was sent to the sinbin for tackling him in the air but the hosts could make no further incisions before the interval.
They failed to maintain that momentum after the break and an insistence on continually kicking away possession proved their undoing, playing straight into the hands of a team grateful for such generosity. The build-up in pressure told as Scottish sevens international Grant Hughes went over on 48 minutes.
Es' pack were hampered by the loss of Lorcan Dow to the sinbin and although they saw off that threat, a kick to the corner and more outstanding mauling from the visitors set up replacement hooker Max Darlington for the score, Tom Price finding the posts this time to make the gap just five points with a quarter of the match remaining.
Esher could find no way to regaining the momentum now and although Morley produced an outstanding covering tackle to deprive Jason Worrall five metres from the line, it was only a temporary let-off. With five minutes left, the pressure ratcheted up to such a degree that another maul was collapsed by Rouse – costing him a yellow card – and a penalty try awarded, putting Chinnor into the lead for the first time in the match but deserving of their five points.
Games to come (home in bold) – Sat March 25: Hull; Sat April 1: Bishop's Stortford; Sat 15: Darlington MP; Sat 22: Rams.
Match in Photos: https://www.leothephotographer.co.uk/p/41788wgv
Leo Wilkinson Photography
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