The Vikings have a long journey this Saturday, travelling to meet third placed Esher who are just five points behind joint leaders Dorking and Barnes. Situated on the southwest outskirts of London, deep in what is often termed the “stockbroker belt”, it’s the Surrey side’s centenary season. After two seasons in the Championship – the second tier of English rugby – they have spent the past decade in the National Leagues, eight of those years in National One. Their officials include some famous names: Peter Winterbottom, who won 58 caps for England in the 11 years to 1993, is Director of Rugby and broadcaster John Inverdale, who played for them, a Deputy President.
Relegated last season despite winning a third of their games, Esher have lost twice this term, at Bury St Edmunds and home to Barnes 38 – 39 in the opening round. They are a free scoring team, accumulating six try bonus points and averaging 35 points per game in their nine matches. Wingers James Botterill (8) and Daniel Rowland (6) are their top try scorers. Earlier this week they strengthened their already experienced squad signing Alex Seers from National One Rams and Will Inglis who has played for Currie Chieftains and Boroughmuir in Scotland.
There will be changes to the Vikings’ squad. Ethan Holmwood has a thumb injury which could sideline him for a significant spell, Henly Brightman has concussion and Wes McGuire is unavailable for work reasons. Russell Arnold is likely to replace Brightman, Billy Tait move into the second row for Holmwood and Leo Langbridge return to flanker.
“It’s going to be yet another tough one,” commented Niall Lear. “Esher are a different type of side to last week’s opponents Canterbury, playing a much more open brand of rugby so our game plan will reflect that. We did well last week for the first half but need an eighty minute performance.” This will be the eighth game between the two Clubs and, with one draw and two wins in the late 1990s, the Vikings will be defending an unbeaten record at Esher’s Molesley Road ground.