Esher Triumph In 15 Try Thriller
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To give some context to the day here is a quote from BBC Legend John Inverdale who is a senior member of Esher Rugby Club and watched the whole game.
that’s the most bizarre game of rugby I’ve ever seen
Ampthill, despite taking an early lead on 4 minutes through wing Spencer Sutherland’s unconverted try, began having clearly forgotten everything they had done this season, a complete lack of control and structure for the first 25 minutes found them trailing 35-5 against a motivated and enthusiastic Esher side playing at home in front of a large crowd.
During this period, in which scrum half George De Cohti and centre Sam Hanks gifted Esher 14 points from interceptions, Amps pack were struggling to understand why, behind the scrum, their teammates were playing the game a in way they hadn’t all season with game control being thrown out of the window and the back division all over the place.
Esher were very accurate and took advantage of every A’s mistake which will likely see them enjoy a much better second half of the season.
The visitors were forced into early changes with full back and, crucially, goal kicker James Pritchard & prop Matthew Collins coming off injured replaced by Mikey Waters and Karl Garside while Gavin Williams replacement of De Cohti was tactical.
Ampthill had a choice at this point to either get back to what they stand for or be completely over run by a rampant and confident home side but Amps did respond and, after the changes in personnel, the momentum shifted to the Maroon and Gold.
The fight back started on 31 minutes as A’s forward pack battered away at the Esher line being awarded a penalty try after multiple infringements by the home defence.
With the visitors immediately back on the attack, wing Sam Baker made a break scoring an unconverted try in the 35th minute and leave both sides defence coaches wondering what was going on.
The changes had brought a positive effect for the A s and Esher we’re under the pump from a coordinated and structured Ampthill. Open side flanker Joe Bercis, who was once again exceptional, scored the first of his hat-trick of tries on 40 minutes, which went unconverted, to leave the score at oranges 35-22.
Unfortunately, half time arrived with the visitors not requiring the break as the momentum was very much in their favour. The hosts, on the other hand, were finding it difficult to cope with Ampthill’s forwards and they breathed a sigh of relief when the whistle went so they could get back in the changing room and regroup.
The first score in the second half would be crucial and regrettably Amps made the first mistake with the forwards going hard having moved the ball into home territory, former Esher player Mickey Wilson threw a loose pass in the 45th minute that once intercepted led to a number of phases and a converted try under the posts shifting the whole momentum of the game to the hosts.
From the restart A’s tried to steady the ship but another loose pass from Wilson in his own half led to Esher being awarded a penalty try on 51 minutes after multiple phases to extend their lead to what seemed like an insurmountable 49-22.
A combination of the home side taking their foot of the gas and the visitors turning up the heat set the tone for the balance of what became an even more bizarre game.
On 56 minutes Joe Bercis, who had put a massive shift in all day, touched down his second try with Wilson adding the extras.
The 68th minute saw Hanks, who had not had one of his better days, escape the cover down the right for an unconverted try to narrow the gap to 15pts.
Ampthill were straight back on the attack with Bercis securing his hat-trick on 70 minutes Wilson converting.
Amps, with their tails up, had the home side under the pump and it was no surprise when former Esher player Sutherland grabbed his second try of the game, Wilson adding the extras to make the score 49-48 in the 78th minute.
One hopes that Esher don’t mind the observation that at this point they appeared out on their feet while the visitors were on their toes looking for a last minute win, unfortunately for Ampthill’s most capped 1stXV player, Williams, the next few seconds saw the world stand still as just about everyone in the ground other than Gavin understood that the A’s were down by a point with a minute to go.
After three phases the pause button was pressed and Gavin thinking Ampthill had won the game turned round and kicked the ball to Head Coach Paul Turner who looked completely bemused as the ball sailed past him into the dead ball area. Williams was inconsolable after the match but he had played a huge part in turning the game around.
The referee blew for no side bringing what was a great spectacle for the supporters and a nightmare for both sets of coaches to an end.
The visitors have many positives to take from the game, coming back twice from the dead despite that first hair brained 25 minutes and gifting three interception tries. They showed great resolve to come away with two losing bonus points and if Williams had looked at the score board properly it may have been more.
Tries:- Hope (6), Irving (12, 45), Arnold (17, 19), James (23), Penalty Try (51)
Conversions:- (7, 13, 18, 20, 24, 46)
Tries:- Sutherland (4, 77), Penalty Try (30), Baker (35), Bercis (40, 56, 70), Hanks (68)
Conversions:- Wilson (57, 71, 78)