Esher 59 North Walsham Vikings 7
The formbook suggested another difficult day for the Vikings and so it proved, third placed Esher running in nine tries, eight from their very impressive back division. 28 – 0 down at the break, the Vikings had their moments, particularly in the final quarter, and never gave up, but the periods they applied pressure on the home defence were few and far between. Niall Lear’s selection showed three changes from that defeated by Canterbury; in contrast Esher showed their squad depth by making ten after their victory over Tonbridge Juddians.
The Vikings were immediately on the backfoot and Esher showed their intent by eschewing an early shot at goal in favour of a scrum. That attack was successfully defended but the visitors had barely touched the ball when James Botterill raced over in the sixth minute; Sam Morley kicked the first of his seven conversions, all bar two from the touchline.
Esher doubled their score after a further six minutes, Morley making the touchdown. The Vikings were putting in the tackles with the back row of Jobe Brooks, Charlie Fethney and Leo Langbridge and hooker Pieter de Lange particularly prominent, but they were racking up the penalties – Esher had been awarded seven before they got their first – and struggling for clean possession at the set pieces. With the midpoint of the half approaching, it became 21 – 0, Keelan Farrell the try scorer.
Briefly the Vikings came into it more. Lacons Brewery Man of the Match Benji Hewitt expertly fielded a high ball on his 22 to initiate a short spell when they retained possession well and forced Esher, whose line speed was a feature of their play, to show their defensive qualities. The hosts though were soon back on the attack, Jacob Ham getting the bonus point try to make it 28 – 0 in the 26th minute. Sound defence then kept them out until halftime, despite two yellow cards meaning they were down to 14 for all but two minutes of the half’s last 15.
The Vikings played themselves into trouble right at the start of the second half, failing to secure the host’s kick-off and after four speedy breakdowns winger Farrell got his second. Esher then turned on the style, running the Vikings ragged with some slick passing and off loading and mazy running lines. Three converted tries – Botterill, Conor Ganley, Myles Rudd – came in the next 16 minutes, so that with just over a quarter left it was 54 – 0.
Determined to stem the flow, the Vikings then played their best rugby of the match, regaining somewhat their defensive organisation and putting together some promising attacks with Brooks, Fethney and Billy Tait all breaking tackles through the middle. Nevertheless, it was still Esher who scored next, Botterill completing his hat trick with eight minutes left. Then in the final play the Vikings got on the scoresheet, Connor Dudley racing over after a fine run by Hewitt; Lucas Atherton converted.
“It was tough, but knew it would be, Esher are a quality side,” commented Niall Lear. “We had our good spells and were 50% better in the second half than the first. I can’t fault the team for effort and we showed in the final quarter what we can do offensively.” Next Saturday the Vikings take on Guernsey at Scottow Park.
Team: 15. Benji Hewitt 14. Harry Dye 13. Dan Smith 12. Ross Magnus
- Tawanda Kandemwa 10. Harry Langbridge 9. Connor Dudley 1. Callum Howe 2. Pieter de Lange 3. Tim Weber 4. Hudson de Lucchi 5. Billy Tait 6. Leo Langbridge 7. Jobe Brooks 8. Charlie Fethney
Mark McCall/ Hewitt (35 mins) front row due to Weber’s yellow
Weber (yellow expired), Hewitt & Russell Arnold/Howe & de Lange (45 mins)
Harry Steward/ Dye (48 mins)
Lucas Atherton/Harry Langbridge (48 mins)
de Lange/McCall (58 mins)
Tom Watson/de Lucchi (62 mins)
de Lucchi/ Leo Langbridge (75 mins)
Dye/Magnus (75 mins)
Yellow Cards: Kandemwa; Weber
Referee: Tom Bird