Barnstaple 14 Esher 27
National Division Two South
Saturday, January 15

Four tries were the key to Esher stretching their winning run to nine as they saw off Barnstaple on Saturday.

The long trip to Devon was made thoroughly worthwhile as Es stayed just two points behind Clifton with a brace of matches in hand.

They took the lead on 10 minutes when a sweeping move paid off for prop Fin McBrearty to touch down, the struggling hosts – who have accrued just 10 points from 16 outings and kept off the bottom only by Westcliff’s nightmare campaign – hampering their own prospects with knock-ons and two penalties being reversed for dissent.

Esher’s hold on the match was strengthened by two tries in the 11 minutes before half time. First a maul allowed McBrearty’s fellow front row Lorcan Dow to touch down, reward for a sustained spell of pressure and Sam Morley converting for a second time to make it 14-0.

And four minutes from the interval wing Dan Rowland, one of the Elmbridge side’s outstanding players of the season so far, displayed his impressive speed by sprinting down the right wing, although this time Morley could not add the extras.

Barnstaple sustained hope, though, thanks to Johnny Carter going over seconds from the whistle, taking advantage of their opponents being down to 14 men. Jake Murphy converted.

Another score early in the second half would have given the home side real hope but they were frequently frustrated by Esher kicking adroitly – not a favourite tactic for a side who enjoy passing the ball but one which underlines their growing practicality – and a Morley penalty on 52 minutes opening up the lead to 22-7.

Es would have been very disappointed to have returned home without a bonus point but had to wait until five minutes from time when second row Hugo Sloan created an overlap to score.

Barnstaple at least had the compensation of a second try in the dying moments, Murphy providing a piercing diagonal kick for Will Topps to go over before going on to convert it, but Esher had the five points they needed and completed a double, having won 64-22 when the sides met in September.

Peter Winterbottom’s side host Leicester Lions – who beat them 27-21 earlier in the season – at Molesey Road on Saturday, the East Midlands side lying sixth in the table, before heading for a derby with Barnes (ninth) seven days later. That will be followed by three home matches in four weeks, which includes the rearranged clash with Guernsey on February 5. The Channel Islanders’ original trip on November 27 had to be postponed because high winds in the English Channel made it impossible to take off.

Fixtures – Jan 22: Leicester Lions (H); 29: Barnes (A); February 5: Guernsey (H); 12: Henley (H); 19: Hinckley (A); 26: Redruth (H); March 5: Clifton (A); 12: Westcliff (H); 19: Worthing (A); 26: Albanian (A); April 2: Guernsey (A); 9: Bury St Edmunds (H); 16: Canterbury (A); Worthing (H); 30: Rochford (A).