Vikings Match Preview v Esher (H) – 16/03/24

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It’s top against bottom this Saturday with Esher the visitors to Scottow Park. With a game in hand the Surrey side lead National 2 East by a single point from Barnes and Dorking, and they will be keen to atone for a surprise defeat at Tonbridge Juddians last week. That loss, just their third of the season, ended a run of 13 consecutive victories. Each defeat has been by seven or less and they’ve achieved the try bonus point every match bar three. Unusually for this league their three leading try scorers are all backs – winger James Botterill (24), full back Henry Faulkner (11) and scrum half Pierre Thompson (10) – reflecting a style of play that was very evident when the Vikings visited them in November. That game ended 59 – 7, including a hat trick for Botterill and seven conversions by leading points scorer Sam Morley. Morley was National One’s Player of the Season last year, despite Esher’s relegation.

Esher have spent the past decade in the National Leagues, eight of those years in National One. Prior to that they had two seasons in the Championship, the second tier of English rugby. 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.

“It’s going to be a very challenging one,” commented Niall Lear. “Esher have a deep and very talented squad and with it so tight at the top they’ll be looking to bounce back from last week with a big win.” There will be changes to the side that lost at Canterbury, a defeat that meant the Vikings can no longer mathematically avoid relegation. Henly Brightman has joined Charlie Fethney on the injured list, and there is also a doubt about Harry Langbridge; John Clarke, who again has work commitments at Norwich School, will continue to be absent. This will be the sixth game in Norfolk between the two Clubs with Esher so far victorious on four occasions.

Paul Morse

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