Seven-try romp gives Esher slim survival hope
11:12am Monday 16th April 2012 in Esher
Esher breathed new life into their bid to avoid relegation from the Championship with a seven try victory over Plymouth Albion, writes Mark Tilley.
The home side racked up 42 points to which the away side could only muster 17 and the result gives Esher a fighting albeit slim chance as they seek to complete their mission impossible and remain in English rugby's second tier.
Next week's clash with London Scottish will determine their fate.
The home side made changes to the back-line after the defeat to Moseley with wing Charlie Walker coming back from England Sevens duty in Tokyo and Fijian Nicky Little returning at fly half, with Mark Atkinson moving to inside centre.
Michael Macfarlane also returned at number eight to bolster the back row.
The changes appeared to have had the desired effect as Esher began with great fluency.
Fast hands from the Esher midfield sent full back Luke Daniels racing clear down the left wing before his attempted inside pass to Stegmann was snaffled by the away side.
And the early home pressure resulted in a try – Tom Cheeseman's floated pass was grabbed by Daniels and flung wide to Stegmann who dodged the covering tackle to finish in the corner.
Esher were making all the early running but Plymouth's first visit to the opposition 22 brought them a try of their own.
Aaron Carpenter burrowed over after heavy pressure on the Esher try-line following an attacking lineout. With both sides failing to convert their tries (James Love's attempt came back off the post), the scores were level at 5-5 in the 12th minute.
An infringement at the breakdown presented Nicky Little with the opportunity to kick Esher deep into Plymouth territory and, from the resulting lineout, a rolling maul took them to within an inch of the line.
Agonisingly, the ball was held up long enough for the away side to effect a turnover and clear but minutes later Esher regained the lead.
After defending inside their own 22, Esher regained the ball and flung it wide where Walker chipped ahead and collected, making 70 or so metres.
And after good recycling from the forwards, Peter Synnott was sent racing in to score just to the left of the posts.
And the home side grabbed another soon after. Superb handling from Little put Atkinson in space.
The centre had two men outside him on the overlap and three or four Plymouth tacklers to evade but he broke clear of everyone and showed a remarkable turn of pace to sprint 50 metres and finish in the corner. Sean Michael Stephen was sent marching to the sin bin moments before half time and Little was handed a relatively straightforward penalty chance – a chance he took to hand Esher a lead of 18-5 at the break.
Esher began the second half in explosive fashion, with a fourth try securing a crucial bonus point.
A quick tap penalty from Clive Stuart Smith saw Esher pile pressure on the Plymouth line and Ian Kench was able to grab the ball from the bottom of the ruck and dive over to score from close range.
Again, the try went unconverted as Little's effort sailed wide.
But Plymouth hit back quickly - after a kick deep into Esher territory, the away side worked the ball through several phases before flanker Wayne Sprangle spun through two tackles to score.
Love's conversion sailed between the posts and the deficit was reduced to 11 points.
Esher responded well to the setback and were soon down the other end, causing problems to the Plymouth defence with quick ball.
Atkinson again broke through a wall of tackles, only to be held up five metres short.
But the home side recycled the ball and prop Ignacio Eluso was sent clear in plenty of space to score Esher's fifth try of the afternoon.
And minutes later the home side crossed the line yet again.
Plymouth were loose in possession in their own 22 and, after Esher had snatched the ball back, fast hands sent Johnny Hylton scampering over.
Little's conversion pushed the lead out to 23.
There was still time for Plymouth to strike again – a chip deep into Esher territory was collected and replacement Jack Andrew dug his way over the line from close range.
But Esher immediately restored the advantage as captain Sam Stitcher scampered over after the excellent Atkinson had again broken through the line. Esher's 42-17 win, allied with Moseley's victory, gives them a small chance of survival and all will be decided next week at London Scottish.