Esher 14 Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 27
By John Allanson
Fourth win in a row for the fighting Stortford squad - and another convincing one at that!
Stortford, playing into the breeze, had to withstand some early Esher pressure but their proud defence was up to the task and they were soon on the attack, immediately finding a chink in the home side's own defences. This came after 9 minutes, when Stortford forced their way into the Esher 22 and a perfectly judged grubber kick from George Cullen across the line allowed Joss Linney to dash in and touch down for a vital try. Tom Banks stepped up with a very good conversion into the breeze from out wide to establish an early 7 point lead. The visitors steadily took control of the game and despite a nasty-looking leg injury to Charlie Kingham, kept the pressure on. After 26 minutes, Stortford won a 5 metre scrum, as a forward drive was held up over the line and a quick break off the back of the set piece from replacement No 8, Steve Ball and a simple pass to Nick Hankin was enough to allow the fullback to dummy his way over for a try. The conversion attempt went wide, as it did some eight minutes later, when Dec Caulfield touched down, driven over from a 5 metre lineout, after a tremendous run by Linney had made inroads deep into Esher's half. Within 5 minutes, though, the home side had registered their own converted try, taking advantage of some uncharacteristically weak Stortford tackling to burst up the middle and allow Kariym Irving on the wing to break two tackles and touch down out wide. The visitors bounced straight back from this setback and, within a couple of minutes had registered their bonus point try - again through Linney, who this time put in his own long grubber kick, after being given space by Hankin and had just enough pace to win the extremely close race for the touchdown. The conversion again went wide and there was enough time left in the half for Esher to exert some considerable pressure on the Stortford defence. The home side managed to find some real rhythm and ran through many phases to test the visitors' tackling commitment and ability to the full. Reverting to type, though, the defence proved up to the task and the half finished with Stortford 22-7 in the lead.
The visitors started the second period strongly, but a few errors, occasionally unforced crept into their game and prevented them from running away with the game. Nevertheless, the next score did go to Stortford, with Linney completing his hat-trick of tries after 20 minutes, with another chip and chase, after he had been given a one on one chance by a deft, first-time pass from George Keen, following a crucial turnover on halfway from Caulfield. This time, the winger won the race for the touchdown comfortably, but the conversion attempt, once again, went wide. Esher refused to give in and, cutting out earlier handling errors, enjoyed much more of the ball and gained visibly in confidence, as their back play started to click. They repeatedly threatened with some elusive running and sharp interplay, especially down their right flank and eventually scored a deserved try after 30 minutes through replacement scrumhalf, Jack Walsh. Owen Waters made a great conversion from the touchline and briefly his side seemed to be lifted by this success, Stortford managed to weather the storm, though and might well have added to their tally, had they been able to show a little more composure at the end of a couple of threatening moves. They were able, though to see the game out without any further alarms and send their many travelling supporters away with broad smiles on their faces
The Blues also had a good win to round off an excellent day for the squad, but final thoughts go to Charlie Kingham with all of our best wishes that his injury doesn't prove too serious,