Worthing Raiders 29 Esher 30

National Division Two South

Saturday, March 19

Dan Rowland snatched victory for Esher in the dying moments to put them in pole position for promotion.

Both sides started just two points behind leaders Redruth and knowing a win in this rearranged match – originally due to be played in December – would enable them to control their own fate.

And it seemed Raiders would be heading into the final six matches in front when they took a four-point advantage at 29-25 with only two minutes remaining.

But the last play of the match proved the perfect situation for Rowland – a key member of the Esher side on the wing for so much of the season but having been out injured in recent weeks – to his second try of the match wide on the right. Although Sam Morley’s conversion flew wide, it mattered not a jot and Esher will head to Albanians on Saturday with a three-point cushion at the top.

Their resilience, displayed so often this season, was sorely needed when Worthing scored two converted tries in the opening 15 minutes, first utilising a turnover to move the ball speedily so that wing Curtis Barnes could sprint away down the left and Matt McLean adding the extras.

Raiders were soon down to 14 men when Liam Perkins received a yellow card but it proved no handicap, Josh Tusler kicking for touch five metres out and the lineout being driven for Will Scholes to dive in.

A brace of tries within five minutes pulled Es back into the match, wing Harri Lang first over for an unconverted effort and then prop Matt Lowes shoving his way in for the second, Morley’s kick making the gap just two points as the Roundstone Lane crowd of 827 witnessed an increasingly engrossing encounter now half an hour old.

Morley put the visitors in front straight after the interval from a penalty but the lead lasted only two minutes, Jack Forrest’s half-break on the right creating space and supplying McLean, who stormed over from 30 yards for an unconverted effort at 19-15.

The knife-edge situation continued throughout the rest of the match, Rowland’s first intervention coming when a penalty was kicked to the corner and set up the opportunity – Morley putting his men three points in front – but Elliott Quinton, on the hour, evaded two tackles and touched down for McLean’s kick to make it 26-22.

Raiders were hit by a second yellow card 10 minutes from time, losing Elliott Luke, and Morley closed the gap to a point from the resulting penalty, yet an offence at the ruck seemed to have swung the match back their way for good as McLean slotted a penalty at the other end to make the gap four again.

Esher would not give way, though, Rowland their saviour as he sent them into the climax of the season with high hopes.

There is much work yet for Peter Winterbottom’s side, the trip to Albanians followed by a potentially hazardous trip to Guernsey and Worthing still to return to Molesey Road in the penultimate game of the season.

Fixtures – March 26: Albanian (A); April 2: Guernsey (A); 9: Bury St Edmunds (H); 16: Canterbury (A); 23: Worthing (H); 30: Rochford (A).