Fylde rally far too late

Johnson - converted three Fylde tries
Johnson - converted three Fylde tries

Fylde 21, Esher 31

Too little, far too late...

Fylde 'won' the second half 14-7, but the damage had been done in a one-sided period of 23 minutes in the first half when Esher raced into a 24-0 lead and went to 31-7.

It is hard to come back against any side, even more so against a talented, full-on team such as Esher.

The home side did not let their heads drop and mounted a late challenge in a vain attempt to claim a bonus point with two late tries, but it was not to be.

For a time it looked as though Fylde would be drowning their sorrows at the post-match Oktoberfest, but it did not turn out to be quite as bad as that, but still a major disappointment,

One man who did not deserve to be on the losing side was Evan Stewart - he played as though losing was an affront to his dignity and performed way and above the call of duty and was by far and away Fylde's man of the match.

Skipper Chris Briers was also in the thick of things, always trying to rally the troops, but it was that harrowing opening sequence that did for Fylde

Fylde had a clear chance in the opening seconds, but Briers wasted it with the most wayward of passes to Jordan Dorrington on his outside.

That somehow set the tone.

On six minutes, the visitors took the lead, a driving maul from a line-out ended with lock Ian Kench touching down with the Fylde pack in full retreat. Paul Roberts missed the conversion.

It got worse for Fylde four minutes later.

The home side were guilty of sloppy re-start, from which Esher capitalised to telling effect.

Esher worked the ball superbly from a midfield scrum, slicing through the right-wing channel, and the slick move ended with scrum-half Andrew Garner galloping through the gap for a try, goaled by Roberts.

Just when it looked as though things couldn't go any worse for Fylde - it just did...

Dorrington deliberately knocked on near the line, preventing what in referee Shane Lewis' judgement was deemed a certain Esher score.

The arbiter duly awarded a penalty try, goaled by Roberts, and Dorrington was sin-binned, only adding to Fylde's growing toils.

Fylde were 19-0 down after only 12 minutes, a nightmare start whichever way you try to dress it up,

Esher's total dominance continued and flanker Charles Gossington claimed a rolling maul try on 23 minutes - Roberts failed with his conversion to this bonus point try.

On the half hour Fylde looked like they were going to get some belated respite in their first real attack of this hitherto one-sided contest, but the ball was spilled inches from the line as the home side drove forward in numbers.

Fylde had another chance, but that was lost when they lost a scrum against the head, symptomatic of their fortunes in the first half.

In stoppage-time, Chris Johnson got his line moving in swift style as Fylde threatened again, but the attack petered out when the ball slipped out of Ralph Dowds' grasp.

Fylde again and a kick-and-chase brought them close to the Esher line again.

They had the put-in at an attacking scrum and Evan Stewart duly scored the pushover try, goaled by Johnson.

At the turnaorund, Fylde trailed 24-7, that early Esher points blitz wreaking maximum havoc and irreparable damage.

The second half started with Fylde on the front foot, but though they had most of the ball in the opening 15 minutes, the Esher defence was hard to penetrate.

Skipper Briers had moved to centre after the withdrawal at half-time of Dowds - replacement Warren Spragg took over at full-back.

Compared with the corresponding period in the first half, the opening 20 minutes of the second half was a quiet affair.

A knock-on perilously close to the line by Spragg almost presented a try-scoring chance to Esher, but sound defence forced the visitors into conceding a penalty, so the home survived.

On 63 minutes, Esher did break through again.

Spragg was on the spot again, trying to take a pass on his shoulder, but it slipped out of his hold and winger Spencer Sutherland intercepted the ball and embarked on a long-range sprint that finished with a try, goaled from wide out by Roberts to make it 31-7, another crushing setback for the home side.

At the other end, Simon Griffiths tried to muscle his way over the line, but Esher managed to wrestle the ball away and then launch a counter-attack.

Then Oli Brennand essayed a kick and chase, more in hope than expectation.

Credit to Fylde for their endeavour, but they were facing an insurmountable handicap, that point being clear from very early on in the proceedings.

But Fylde did get a belated award on 73 minutes when Paul Arnold caught the Esher unawares peeling away from a scrum unopposed to score his side's second try. Johnson converted.

The dangerous Brennand then embarked on a mazy run after collecting the ball deep in his own defence.

Less than a minute later Brennand nearly scored after seizing hold of a Stewart pass, but he could not make it over the line, halted by some desperate, last-ditch defending.

From the resulting scrum, Esher were pulled up by the referee for an offence at a maul and thus Fylde were awarded a penalty try on 78 minutes, goaled by Johnson.

There was no further chance to get another three points needed to earn some solace by way of a bonus point.

It was that kind of day...

.Fylde: Briers; Dorrington, Dowds, S Rawlings, Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe; Birchall, Maher, Lewis, Arnold, Gray, Moon, Goodman, Stewart. Replacements: Griffiths, Mills, Vernon, Prisk, Spragg.