Stortford stay sixth after fifth win on the bounce
Bishop's Stortford 24 Esher 17, National League 1
Bishop’s Stortford were never behind but were made to work for their fifth successive win against an Esher side that doinated the ball and territory at Silver Leys on Saturday.
The National League 1 programme takes a fortnight’s break now and resumes on November 25, when Andy Long’s team will entertain second-placed Darlington Mowden Park.
Although both sides have eight wins and three defeats from their 11 games so far, the North East side enjoy a seven-point advantage over Stortford by virtue of a superior bonus points tally. Only leaders Coventry, with a 100% record from their 11 games, have won more matches.
In front of a crowd of 560 on Saturday afternoon, the visitors from Surrey started slowly and Stortford took full advantage to dominate the first few minutes, culminating in a try by Matt Riddington, who forced his way over from near the 22 after a great break by captain Sam Winter. George Cullen added the conversion.
Aided by some loose Stortford kicking, Esher battled their way into the game, controlling possession and territory for extended periods, but it was the home side that scored again, forcing a penalty after a brief counter-attack. Cullen kicked the goal on 26 minutes to make it 10-0.
Stortford were then on the front foot, but, as the half neared its close, were made to pay for turning the ball over, trying to force a kick on Esher’s 22. The visitors drove upfield for an excellent converted try after some clever interplay by their backs.
Play swung to and fro in the second period, but a passage of quick interpassing through many phases by Stortford created an opening for scrum half Tom Banks to squeeze over at the base of a ruck for a converted try after 56 minutes.
The formula was repeated five minutes later, with replacement Ryan Hutler going over under the posts and Cullen again adding the extras.
Stortford’s momentum was halted abruptly by successive penalties at scrum and lineout. From the resultant 5m lineout, Esher drove over for an unconverted try on 67 minutes.
Playing with growing confidence, the visitors piled on the pressure and another 5m lineout produced the same five-point outcome with only three minutes to go, leaving a tense period during which both sides looked in vain for an extra score.
Bishop’s Stortford: Duff, Rea, Winter, Riddington, Hankin, Cullen, Banks T; Brownhill, Caulfield, Edwards, Apperley, Tomlinson, Ball, Elsom, Jones. Replacements: Roberts, McCrone, Banks R, Hutler, Patton
Esher: Davies, James, Brown, Arnold, Rowland, Roberts, Garnet; Furey, Harding, Zeiss, Leigh, Marriott, Whitehurst, Gossington, Seccombe. Replacements: Hope, Mines, Salustri, Boatman, Trotter.