Park take the bragging rights off Esher after derby thriller
Rosslyn Park edged a thrilling derby 38-31 to keep pace with the leaders of National League One.
If they deserved to come out on top, in front of a large Roehampton crowd, scoring five tries to Esher’s three, a stunning comeback by the Surrey side forced them to dig deep to see out the victory.
A key difference between the two sides was the flair shown by the Park backs.
Esher started strongly, but offered nothing that the home defence could not comfortably deal with.
As soon as Park sniffed possession, a powerful run by winger Dave Vincent saw him off-load to centre Charles Broughton, who beat two tackles to ground the ball - fly half Scott Sneddon added a conversion for 7-0 on two minutes.
Broughton turned provider for the second try 12 minutes later. The home pack got the better of Esher at a scrum and from a resulting penalty a good run by Broughton nearly made the line, but full-back Ed Lewis-Pratt was on hand to dive in, with Sneddon’s conversion increasing the lead to 14-0.
Charge: Joe Ajuwa takes on the Esher defence Picture: David Whittam
Park looked good value for their lead, comfortably snuffing out anything the visitors tried.
On 21 minutes, Park conceded a penalty on their own 10m line. Esher full-back Luke Daniels popped over a good long-range effort to put his side on the scoreboard at 14-3.
Park continued to play some delightful rugby in the backs, throwing the ball around, but they tried it once too often and alert left winger Anders Morgensen pounced for a super interception try, his pace leaving the defence behind for 14-8.
Just as it looked as if Park would go into half-time with a lead that scarcely represented their contribution, Esher were pinged for ‘crossing’ fielding the kick off in their own 22.
This set up another major onslaught as Park forced a scrum in front of the Esher posts.
The ball was handed to winger Joe Ajuwa, popping up in the middle, and he easily defied a tackle to score a try that left a question mark over the Esher defence.
A straightforward conversion for Sneddon made it 21-8 on 40 minutes.
Esher made a big effort at the start of the second half and forced a penalty on the home 22 for Daniels to peg back the score to 21-11.
Park found the perfect riposte when, with the referee playing advantage for a knock-on, a searing run from Lewis-Pratt sent Vincent in at the corner for the bonus point try, Sneddon nailing a very difficult kick to prudence a lead of 28-11 after 44 minutes.
Forward thinking: Ed Lewis-Pratt charges at the Esher back lines Picture: David Whittam
Esher’s response underlined why they are title challengers.
They went up several gears and produced a display of controlled rugby that simply starved Park of any worthwhile possession as the visitors hauled themselves back into the match.
From a Park scrum in front of their own posts, the ball emerged awkwardly for scrum half Jack Gash, who needed two attempts to get hold of it.
Esher pounced, moved the ball quickly to the wing where Ashley Smith got over. Daniels made a magnificent conversion off the far post for 28-18.
When Park made the Esher 22, instead of relief, a crooked throw and succession of penalties saw them back deep in their own territory, Daniels slotting over a penalty to bring his side within a try at 28-21 with 24 minutes to go.
Esher threw everything at Park, who were now leaking penalties which the visitors repeatedly kicked to touch for a succession of 5m throws.
Eventually prop David Millard forced his way over and Daniels’ conversion tied up the scores at 28-28 with barely 10 minutes remaining.
Suddenly an Esher win looked very much on the cards. But Park showed unquenchable spirit to wrest back control.
A surging home move saw the ball lost in contact but they came back and a run from Lewis-Pratt was stopped at the cost of a penalty.
It would have been a difficult one in training, but in the context of a red hot derby Sneddon’s place kick was out of the top drawer to restore his team’s lead at 31-28.
Park were now calling the shots, but with both sides knowing a mistake could cost them everything the tension was palpable.
Winner: Dave Vincent touches down to secure the narrow win for Park Picture: David Whittam
With 80 minutes up, Vincent burst through the middle for Park at top speed to touch down between the posts, Sneddon converting for 38-28.
Park thought they had won, but there were still three minutes of added time and Esher threw everything they had into the rescue mission.
Park defended superbly, conceding a penalty only when the match was in its last play. No one could begrudge Esher the losing bonus point brought up by Daniels kick.
Next Saturday Park face potentially an even tougher examination, when they travel up to Yorkshire to tackle the league leaders, Doncaster Knights, the only full-time professionals in the division.
Park: Lewis-Pratt; Ajuwa, Broughton (Gower), Staff, Vincent; Sneddon; Gash; Liffchak, Clarke (Bellamy), McKenzie (Lundberg); Inglis, Boyle (Rowland); Ball, Broadbent, Ellis
Sub not used: Hodgkinson
The following pictures are from DeadlinePix (SP80765)
Big win: Park coach Alex Codling
Keep on running: Dave Vincent is all smiles en route to the winning try
Swift: Edward Lewis-Pratt
Hairy-scary: Harry Broadbent comes up against a tough Esher tackle
Attention: Hugo Ellis looks to shake off the attentions of an Esher hoodlum
See-ya: Joseph Ajuwa leaves three Esher men in his wake before crossing the white line
Off-load: Joseph Clark, far right
Coming through: Richard Boyle
Comments are closed on this article.