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Old Albanian 31 Esher 40

National Division Two South

Saturday March 26

By Richard Spiller

Tenacious Albanians ensured leaders Esher had to fight hard for the five points which keep them top of the table.

Four tries in the opening 24 minutes suggested Peter Winterbottom's men were heading for an orgy to match their 81-7 victory over Westcliff earlier in March, not least with OAs missing a number of players through injuries.

Yet the Hertfordshire side closed to within two points before Es kicked on again, heading into the final five weeks of the campaign with a slender lead over Redruth.

Esher's early superiority was based on command up front, enabling the flair of their forwards to stretch Albanians across the pitch. Lock Fraser Wem's industry was proved a key factor, first creating an opening for fly-half Sam Morley to make a typically evasive run to the line –also converting – and then forcing his own way through.

Flanker Charlie Gossington claimed the third following a rolling maul, Morley converting from the left-hand touchline, and Es had secured their bonus point when hooker Charles Crawley took advantage of a similar manoeuvre to notch the fourth, the extras making it 26-0.

Albanians were in danger of sinking yet came flying back into the match, Tom Stileman making an interception to go over on the right and Dan Watt converting expertly from a tight angle.

And with half time beckoning, a catch-and-drive saw tight head Harry Samuel strike for the second, Watt ensuring the gap was down to 12 points at the break.

It grew more serious for the visitors when they conceded twice more in the opening moments of the second half, Ashley Illston speeding through down the right and then – with Esher pushing hard to respond – another loose pass saw Kaz Henderson grasp the ball and sprint 80 metres to touch down at the other end.

Es recovered their poise, though, Gossington striking for his second try of the day – Morley converting – and Harvey Scott, having started on the bench, stretching the lead further as extras made the lead worth 16 points.

OAs had already gained a bonus point and had the final word as well, Watt scoring and Greg Lound rapidly converting but his side running out of time to create further problems.

Victory ensured Esher completed a double over Albanians, who had been beaten 41-21 at Molesey Road in November, and they will be aiming to secure another when they fly to Guernsey on Saturday in their third successive road trip.

That is followed by a home match against Bury St Edmunds on April 9.

Just six points cover the top four teams, Redruth lying three behind with Clifton and Worthing a further three adrift.

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