Taunton Titans 48 Esher 10
National Division 2 South
Saturday March 14 2020
New leaders Taunton inflicted Esher's heaviest defeat of the season in a one-sided contest at the Towergate Stadium.
Titans were still sore from being beaten 10-8 at Molesey Road in early November, when they had fluffed a conversion which would have earned a draw – and knew victory on Saturday would take them past Tonbridge Juddians, an eight-try bonanza ensuring their goal was achieved with plenty to spare.
Should the season be ended by the Covid-19 crisis, it could prove particularly timely, given the decision of the RFU to suspend all rugby in England until at least April 14. Esher currently stand in eighth position.
It took the hosts 14 minutes to make a breakthrough, their reward for some fine inter-play coming when centre Tom Wyatt and Gary Kingdom linked superbly to send over scrum-half Pierre Thompson for a converted try.
Prop Isaac Dalton took advantage of fine play from full-back Kingdom for the second try, which went unconverted, but there was hope for Esher, Taunton losing Julian Salvi to 10 minutes in the sinbin after a challenge on Jack Walsh. Making the most of superior numbers, the visitors' forwards pushed hard for second row Cam Gentles to score to make it 12-5.
Titans were soon back in charge, Thompson – on loan from Premiership club Exeter Chiefs – becoming an increasing influence on the game and Alex Spurdle taking advantage of powerful running to make it 19-5 at the break.
They had secured their bonus point within three minutes of the restart, Ratu Vakalutukali's enterprise carving a hole in the defence before Thompson and centre Nick Mason linked to set up hooker Spurdle for his second.
Speedy stand-off Toby East was key to creating the fifth try for Mason, Taunton dominating ever more at set-pieces and having the wind behind them to make life increasingly difficult for the visitors.
Esher had the consolation of a Thompson kick being charged down, wing Joe Beckett taking advantage to score, but Titans were soon celebrating again as Spurdle completed his hat-trick for the sixth.
There was no let-up either, Titans keen to improve their points difference should it be decisive. No 8 Sam Prior notched the seventh from another successful set-piece, Thompson having the final word by latching on to a kick through by Dan Mugford, the former Sale back.
Esher's director of rugby Peter Winterbottom, who admitted afterwards that his men had been "completely outmuscled up front and in all areas of the pitch"
Written by Richard Spiller