Esher 37 Dings Crusaders 32

National Division Two South

Saturday, January 8

Desperate resistance on their own line was needed before Esher could seal their first win of 2022.

Dings Crusaders were camped within touching distance of a score for several minutes in the dying stages, desperately pressing for the try which would have stolen victory.

Appealing with all the enthusiasm of Australian slip fielders as the seconds ticked away, Crusaders pressed continuously and referee Adam Wookey had to peel off attackers and defenders, consulting his assistant before ruling that an Esher hand was underneath the ball. That was sufficient for them to earn their eighth successive success of a run which began in mid-October.

The Elmbridge side looked rusty early on, having not played since December 11 thanks to a Covid outbreak and then the Christmas break. They went behind in the third minute as fly-half Tom Wilstead burst through a sizeable gap in the defence to touch down, converting it as well.

The Bristol Bears stand-off added a penalty on 12 minutes to make it 10-0 but that spurred their opponents into action, Dan Rowland the recipient of a deflection before hurrying over the line and Sam Morley added the extras. Fly-half Morley despatched a penalty to level matters on 27 minutes.

Esher were now seeking another breakthrough before half time and it came moments from the break, sustained pressure paying off when influential scrum-half Pierre Thompson skipped round his surging forwards to plunge over for a converted effort at 17-10.

Wandsworth Times: Cameron Wilkins Photo: Leo WilkinsonCameron Wilkins Photo: Leo Wilkinson

Morley’s accuracy with his left boot added two penalties inside the first seven minutes of the resumption but, if his side felt a repeat of their 45-19 win in September was assured, they were to receive a nasty shock.

Waylon Gasson’s arrival at scrum-half changed the tempo of a match now being played in steady rain, taking advantage of his pack driving forward to go over on 54 minutes. And soon after he deftly chipped over the Esher defence – finding it hard to turn in the greasy conditions – for wing Harry Rowson to race over on the left, Wilstead crucially going wide with both conversions.

Nursing only a three-point advantage, Esher recovered their momentum through prop Matt Lowes piling over for a converted try, the ding-dong nature of the match seeing Rowson add a second – the extras missed again – before flanker Cameron Wilkins showed admirable speed for the bonus point try and Morley making the gap 12 points.

Still Dings were not beaten, four minutes remaining when Wilstead raced over for a second time, converting this time but his three misses the only blot on a fine display. With Esher reduced to 14 men, they came under desperate assault but their line remained intact – just – and enabled them to return to second spot, a point off Clifton but with two matches in hand.

They head to Barnstaple on Saturday, hosting Leicester Lions on January 22 before their derby at Barnes seven days later.