Esher 34 Leicester Lions 31

National Division Two South

Saturday, January 22

A WINNING run which has hit double-figures was only secured by Esher showing great tenacity in the tense final moments to see off dangerous Leicester Lions.

Peter Winterbottom’s men went level with Clifton at the top of the table – they have two matches in hand – against one of the only two teams to beat them in league action this season.

Lions looked good bets to complete the double as they pressed hard in the closing stages, seeking a repeat of their 27-21 win in September. But just as in the desperate climax to victory over Dings Crusaders two weeks earlier, Es hung on grimly to claim five points.

A Sam Morley penalty sent the hosts in front after only four minutes but it was Lions who enjoyed the main share of both ball and territory in the first half, snatching the lead on 11 minutes when a careless pass from Theo Skoumbourdis allowed scrum-half James Stubbs to intercept, Ben Young converting.

Morley narrowed the deficit to a point courtesy of a second penalty but midway through the half Leicester’s extra punch up front was rewarded by lock Will Ward touching down and Young adding the extras to put his side 14-6 ahead.

Es started to find their attacking rhythm six minutes from the interval, piling on the pressure down the left flank for Skoumbourdis to touch down and Morley again make the difference just one point.

Wing Tom James was despatched to the sinbin for a blatant penalty moments later, Young finding the target from close range, yet the visitors would have been disappointed to go in behind when they conceded in the dying seconds of the first half. Hooker Andy Hamilton’s fine break created space for his team-mates to pour into, centre James Chaumeton scoring and seeing Morley make it 20-17.

The teams traded tries after the break, Skoumbourdis’s fortunes continuing to improve when he went over at the foot of the right-hand post, 12 minutes after the resumption, Morley stretching the advantage to 10 points.

An impressive burst of pace from full-back Alex Wilcockson earned Lions their third try on 58 minutes, Young converting, but within four minutes Esher skipper Adam Bullett stretched over at the left-hand post to secure a bonus point, Morley making it 34-24.

If they thought that was the end of the matter, they were disappointed, Stubbs adding his second try with 12 minutes remaining and Young maintaining his own 100 per cent kicking record.

The visitors sensed that they now had the momentum and Esher’s unbeaten run since October 9 looked in grave danger, only for their strength of purpose and organised rearguard to rescue them again, a massive sigh of relief emanating from the Molesey Road crowd when the final whistle sounded.

Esher head to Barnes on Saturday, knowing that the derby match is unlikely to offer any easy pickings given they only snatched a 17-17 draw from the final kick of the game when the sides met on October 2.

Fixtures – Jan 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); 23: Worthing (H); 30: Rochford (A).