Capital finish sees Atkins grab points for Esher
Leeds Tykes 24 Esher 30
National League 1
Saturday January 14
Report written by Richard Spiller
A late try from Ben Atkins sealed Esher's comeback to secure five valuable points in Yorkshire's capital.
Es trailed Leeds Tykes from the first minute and were 24-12 down at half time in a match heavily influenced by windy conditions.
But they showed magnificent resilience to prevent the hosts scoring after the interval and did just enough to claim a bonus-point victory, their fifth success in the last eight matches of a heartening mid-season revival which takes them six points clear of the relegation zone.
Tykes were given an instant lift at the start when Kieran Davies's smart dummy threw the Esher cover, going over under the posts. Tighe Maxwell-Whiteley's conversion bounced back off the uprights.
Es levelled on eight minutes, wing Ben Fitzgerald intercepting deep in his own territory and chipping over the Leeds defence for scrum-half Sam Bullock to kick ahead and barge past Seremaia Turagabeci on his way to the line for an unconverted effort.
Parity lasted just three minutes, the hosts taking advantage of a lineout for a driving maul which sent over hooker Rhys Williams, Maxwell-Whiteley's conversion hitting the target this time.
Fitzgerald was sent over in the corner on 21 minutes by a fine passing move for Esher's second try, Morley's conversion reminding spectators why he is the leading scorer in the division with 162 points. But Leeds, who won 26-24 when the sides met last September at Molesey Road, took control of play until the interval. First prop Alex Pleasants capitalised on a maul and then Jacob Mounsey secured their bonus point wide on the left, following more impressive work from the forwards. Maxwell-Whiteley converted the first of those two strikes to leave it 24-12 at the break.
Esher's counterattack in the second half proved too testing for the Tykes – one place off the bottom – as their discipline crumbled under the strain. Two penalties allowed Morley to chip away at the deficit and with the match evenly poised, the hosts saw lock John Okafor despatched to the sinbin for a high tackle.
The lineout which followed underlined Esher's increasing effectiveness from set-pieces, hooker Andy Hamilton touching down on 64 minutes, although the conversion was charged down to leave Tykes still in front by a point.
Knowing survival could yet depend on the result added a note of desperation to both sides but it was the visitors who struck, seven minutes from time. Es put together a move from their own territory to which saw flanker Harvey Scott supply Atkins for the try – and possibly crucial extra point – before Morley added the extras.
Next up for Esher is a home date with Plymouth Albion, who are seventh in the table and beat them 45-29 in October but have only won twice on road this season.
Games to come (home in bold) – Sat Jan 21: Plymouth Albion; Sat 28: Taunton; Sat Feb 18: Sale FC; Sat 25: Cinderford; Sat March 4: Cambridge; Sat 11: Chinnor; Sat 25: Hull; Sat April 1: Bishop's Stortford; Sat 15: Darlington MP; Sat 22: Rams.