Esher were let off early on in the game when Wharfedale were camped on the visitors line. Penalty after penalty was given away and a yellow card awarded, but after more penalties Esher held out and cleared. They then settled into their stride and good pressure from their forwards allowed space for their backs to cross.
Paul Roberts started the scoring for Esher with a penalty after 19 minutes. This was soon followed by tries from Alistair Chisholm and Spencer Sutherland. Both were converted by Roberts. Adam Howard crossed for Dale but Esher finished the scoring in the half with a long range penalty from Roberts and another converted try from Andrew Wright.
Howard crossed for his second try to start the second half after good work from a successful Wharfedale line out. Jamie Guy added the two points.
The Surrey side then produced their best rugby of the match scoring three tries with a combination of strong forward play and good running from the backs. Thomas Yellowlees, Spencer Sutherland and Andrew Wright all touched down with Roberts converting two of them and hitting the post with his final attempt.
Wharfedale finished strongly with tries from Oliver Cicognini and Dan Tai. Lloyd Davies was successful from the tee on both occasions.
Esher must be congratulated for their work on the afternoon but Dale should not be too disheartened. Pressure from the Green Machine led to some desperate defence from the southerners leading to four yellow cards! This was scant reward to the Greens as they only scored seven points during this time. Oliver Cicognini also spent ten minutes off the pitch when harshly (but probably correctly) judged to have deliberately knocked on when going for an interception which would have seen him race clear.
The Dales pack worked hard all afternoon, and although sometimes on the back foot in the scrum, managed to hold their own ball on most occasions and also put pressure on the Esher eight. The line out went through phases. Having won their first five line outs it went haywire and the next three were lost, ending the early period of pressure that the Greens had put on the Esher line. It was painful for Dale as Esher, after a successful line out, created pressure on the Greens, and then created space for the backs to score. Simple rugby, efficiently executed. The second try also came from a successful Esher line out. The third try came from a scrum on half way following a false restart by Dale. The Esher pack was being driven back but managed to win the ball and speedy winger Andrew Wright raced away to score.
Dale started the second half as they started the first and heat was put on the visitors. Harrison Collins was awarded a yellow and this time Dale capitalised and Adam Howard was awarded a try.
When Wharfedale were themselves reduced to 14 after Cicognini’s error, Esher used the man advantage well and produced some excellent play. A successful catch and drive sucked in the defence and after 4 phases Thomas Yellowlees crashed over.
Spencer Sutherland showed a clean pair of heels to the Wharfedale defence when scoring with a break from half way to put the game further out of reach with the score at 12-41. A failed Wharfedale line out was brilliantly used to round off this dominant period for Esher. A long pass put Andrew Wright in wide right which led to kicker Andrew Wright spoiling his 100% record – even then he hit the post but it bounced the wrong way.
At last the Green Machine revved up and found another gear. For once Esher messed up a line out. Rob Baldwin pounced on the loose ball and a great angled run by Cameron Hudson found him nearly over the line. He offloaded to Cicognini who wriggled over to give the home supporters the hope of a bonus point.
They did not have to wait long as the Esher restart was confidently fielded and fed to Dan Tai who sped through the defence and rounded the cover to score a scintillating try.
Wharfedale still pressed and more desperate defending saw two more yellow cards to the visitors but their line held!
Head Coach, Tom McGee reflected “Firstly the players are disappointed more than anybody how we’ve started and with the performance. There is a burning desire to do well, kick on and let out the ability in this team. Fundamentally our starts in games and basic skills throughout needs to improve for that to happen.
The 1st 2 games we’ve been hit hard on the break off the back of not controlling our parts well which is disappointing. We got positive fields positions in the 1st 15 minutes against Esher but we didn’t convert that into points – that allowed them to maintain a psychological high, keep their tails up and you could see how much it meant to them. We need to press those early pressure periods into points.
The players were very honest with each other after the game in the little parts of our game that’ll make a big difference moving forward.
Unfortunately we lose Lloyd Davies to a new job in London, Lloyd has been outstanding through pre-season in the games. We wish him well in his new role and hope to see him back soon”
Wharfedale Steel (Beesley 49), Larkin (Stockdale 52), Wade (Steel 60), Howard, Mason (Allen 55), Hedgley, Burridge (c), Baldwin; Woodhead, Guy (Bell 63); Cicognini, Hudson (Labasse 79), Morgan, Labasse (Tai 63), Davies
A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab near the top of this page.