Canterbury Push Leaders Hard
CANTERBURY 34 ESHER 36
by David Haigh
In a top quality game, full of pace and intensity, Canterbury pushed the National 2 East league leaders all the way before missing out in the late stages. They held the lead until the final quarter when a yellow card hit them hard as Esher made the next ten minutes count with two crucial tries to extend their winning run to nine. The disappointment for the city club was tempered by two richly deserved bonus points after a penalty try in the 74th minute brought them back into contention and had the visitors holding on for a nervous victory. For a Canterbury squad missing five injured regulars from their pack the pre-match signs might not have been promising but they took the game to Esher from the start. There was a confidence about them which was rewarded through quick hands and a break by Aiden Moss who sent Tom Wiliiams clear to the posts. Frank Reynolds, immaculate with his goal kicking throughout, converted. Esher, who are not top of the pile without reason and prompted by clever scrum half Pierre Thompson, soon began to probe. The back row combination of Harry Chamberlain and Cam Wilkins ended with Wilkins touching down, but Canterbury refused to be overshadowed. They continued to attack in style and it brought them two tries from centre Tom Best. Eoin O’Donoghue’s off-load and Best’s strength made the first and skillful work by Will Waddington set up the second. With Reynolds’ conversions pushing Canterbury further ahead Esher had work to do and before half time they responded with a catch and drive score from Andy Hamilton and a try for wing Ben Robbins. With Sam Morley landing two conversions they were still behind at the break and five minutes into the second half Reynolds gave the city side another three points from a penalty goal. Injuries were starting to disrupt Canterbury and their lead vanished as the visitors drew level through a try from left wing James Botterill, but a second penalty goal from the reliable Reynolds kept this intriguing contest in the balance. Then came the yellow card for Dan Huntley as the city side repelled a driving maul. Within a minute, prop Theo Skoumbourdis scored from a catch and drive and Botterill found space to squeezed in at the corner for a score which Morley converted from wide out. In the closing ten minutes Canterbury’s power at the maul won them seven points from the penalty try and the team were still throwing themselves into the attack at the close of a game that was a cracking advertisement for National League rugby.
Canterbury: A.Moss, G.Jones, W.Waddington, T.Best, A.Orris, F.Reynolds, T.Williams, E.Lusher, N.Morris, D.Herriott, J.De Vries, J.Stephens, J.Dengate, E.O’Donoghue, T.Oliver. Replacements: A.Evans, D.Huntley, B.Cooper, F.Morgan, A.Davies