Match Report: Esher v Clifton

Esher v Clifton National Division Two South Saturday October 30

Boss Peter Winterbottom praised his Esher side after they fought back to beat Clifton convincingly at Molesey Road.

They were 12-8 down at half time and second best in just about every department but returned after the interval to show the formidable form which had seen them end Redruth's long unbeaten run a week earlier.

"Just about everything about us was better in the second half," said Winterbottom.

"It was vital we worked that bit harder and improved our performance in every respect. Getting the ball out to our backs was very important.

"I can't fault the way they did that and especially our discipline in not giving away penalties. Clifton barely got into our 22 as the game went on."

The former England and British Lions flanker went on: "We haven't got a particularly dominant pack, so it's vital we don't offer teams opportunities to put us under pressure."

Clifton had entered the match boosted by a 106-17 mauling of troubled Westcliff but their build-up to the match was badly disrupted, centre Sam Harrison having to drop out when his wife went into labour – Tom Jones replacing him – and then suffering traffic problems, which meant kick-off had to be delayed by 15 minutes.

Yet they made the perfect start, Esher's hesitation in the opening minute enabling No 8 Niall Gibbons to rush past the defence.

Sam Morley cut the deficit soon after by landing a penalty but there was little cohesion for Esher until midway through the first half, when Chris Davies went over for his first try for the club, although it went unconverted by the generally accurate Morley.

Clifton were ahead again within six minutes, though, substitute prop Ricky Cano forcing his way over the line under the posts and Jac Lloyd adding the extras to leave them in good spirits as they led at the interval.

A clearly more resolute Esher - who were helped by the wind they might have been playing into dying down - gained their reward on 52 minutes.

The influential Morley's second penalty trimmed the lead to one point and their pack showed that what they lack in weight they make up in mobility, second row Hugo Sloan having an outstanding afternoon to win praise from Winterbottom.

Steadily increasing the pressure on Clifton, they worked the ball around the pitch following a scrum, full-back Jack Lavin making the crucial incision on the right as he skated through an increasingly tiring rearguard.

Morley converted for 15-12 and Esher were never to be overhauled again. They steadily grew more dominant up front, prop Theo Skoumbourdis touching down from a move which had started at a lineout.

They just had time to claim a bonus point too, driving strongly on 87 minutes to claim the fourth try, fly-half Morley converting both and underlining his great value after prompting the side all afternoon.

Winterbottom reckons a week off will be an ideal tonic for his side, who have moved up to third place – level on points with Redruth and three behind Worthing at the summit – before they too attempt to take advantage of Westcliff's woes. 

By Richard Spiller

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