By Steph Franklin
Despite a second-half fightback, hosts Henley dominated in a nervy encounter as Esher fell to their second away defeat of the season.
Keen to make up for last season's losses both home and away to Henley, the EEEs started strong, spending much of the first ten minutes camped on the Henley line. It was the hosts, however, who were first to score thanks to a penalty kick in the fourteenth minute. Indeed, the visitors were unable to get onto the scoreboard at all in the first half, despite a few chances. Two opportunities for penalty kicks missed their target, and an impressive break from Tom James - celebrating his hundredth game for Esher's 1st XV - twenty minutes in was wasted after a knock-on from the receiving centre.
The final ten minutes of the first half saw three yellow cards, one for Henley's winger Reuben Norville and one each for Charlie Gossington - which resulted in a penalty try for the Hawks - and Tom James, meaning neither side finished the half with a full complement. Henley made the most of their one-man advantage, however, driving over for their second score of the afternoon on the stroke of half time.
Errors continued to plague the men in black and amber in the second half as lost lineouts and scrum penalties further thwarted our hopes of a second-half comeback. It was, again, Henley who were first to score, with Reuben Norville, fresh from the sin bin, making an impressive break. The EEEs did, however, regain some ground despite still being a man down, with Cameron Wilkins scoring minutes later. The try was duly converted by Rhodri Adamson. Henley hit back almost straight away with their third of the afternoon, once again widening their lead.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Esher mounted another attack, with both Matthew Lowes and Luke Peters making gains towards the Henley line, though neither was quite within reach. It was Harri Lang who finally made it across the whitewash, with the conversion coming thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the crossbar.
The visitors had one more score in them, though, as Luke Peters made a dazzling break to crash over in the corner, with Jack Lavin making the tricky conversion look easy and narrowing Henley's lead to 10 points, though it came too late to raise travelling supporters' hopes of a comeback, as the hosts bundled their visitors into touch from the subsequent restart.
All eyes will now be back on Molesey Road as we look forward to next weekend's home fixture against National 2 South newcomers Hinckley.