Match Report by Steph Franklin
A last-gasp try from Dan Rowland secured a vital win on the road for Esher, as both sides turned up the heat in the race for promotion to National One.
The hosts were first to score, though their celebrations were short-lived as a yellow card in the tenth minute reduced them to fourteen men. This only seemed to spur the Raiders on, however, with Esher struggling to gain control of the ball, and Worthing scoring their second try of the game in the fifteenth minute.
Now fourteen points behind, Esher finally stepped up their attack, launching a rapid assault on the home side's line. Their efforts were rewarded with scores firstly from Harri Lang who flew over in the corner, before Matt Lowes crashed across the line a few minutes later. One missed conversion meant Esher still trailed by two points, but the battle was now well and truly underway.
Both sides continued to thrash it out and though Esher almost had a chance to score again and take the lead just before half time, a knock on dashed their hopes and neither side was able to add any more points to the board in the first half.
The second half began as the first finished, with both sides battling fiercely for every point. The visitors took the lead for the first time in the 42nd minute thanks to a penalty kick from Sam Morley, though Worthing were quick to retaliate, scoring their third try of the afternoon less than a minute later.
It wasn't long before the lead changed hands again, however, as a sustained period of pressure from Esher sent Dan Rowland darting through a gap in the defences, with Morley angling his kick to perfection despite the wind. Another Worthing try came ten minutes later, securing the home side's bonus point, as it started to look like the Raiders were headed for glory. A second yellow card for Worthing reduced them again to fourteen men, and with Sam Morley successfully slotting the resultant penalty, the gap was reduced to one point as nerves were fraying both on and off the pitch.
Despite being unable to capitalise on the man advantage, Esher spent most of the final fifteen minutes of the game camped in Worthing's half, though a Worthing penalty in the 78th minute looked like it had put the win out of the EEEs' reach.
Dan Rowland had other ideas, though, as - with seconds left on the clock - he exploited a gap in the home side's defence to score and secure Esher's place at the top of the table. The conversion missed its mark, but with players and fans alike already celebrating, it no longer seemed to matter.