MATCH REPORT: Fylde RFC 17 Esher 32
There were plenty of promising signs for the future as Fylde contemplate life in National Two (North) next season, though they are sure to finish bottom of National One after another disappointing defeat.
Esher came into the game still under threat of being pulled in to the relegation dogfight and they started with intensity, pushing Fylde back.
Winger Henry Hadfield was sent to the sinbin and after eight minutes Esher moved the ball through their backs for winger Joe Beckett to score wide on the right. Former Oxford University fly-half Basil Strang was unable to add the conversion.
Fylde then took control and set up camp in the Esher half, and after a series of penalties, a driving maul following a lineout collapsed and referee Calum Sharp awarded a penalty try on 14 minutes, as well as showing lock Liam Edwards a yellow card.
Fylde continued to dominate territory as their pack at least matched the bigger Esher eight.
A 40-metre break downfield by full-back Tom Carleton was stopped by the resolute Esher defence, who continued to give away penalties. Another driving maul on 24 minutes resulted in number eight David Fairbrother swivelling over on the blindside for a try. Greg Smith was unable to convert from the touchline but Fylde led 12-5.
This lead did not last long: within three minutes Strang kicked a straightforward penalty for offside, then two minutes later Fylde lost possession and a sweeping Esher move ended with Niall Saunders dodging his way over. Strang’s conversion made it 15-12 to the visitors at the interval.
Esher started the second half like men possessed. They threw themselves into the fray and two minutes in centre Dan Rowland found space in the Fylde defence to score a neat try down the left.
Three minutes later they had effectively settled the game as an attack down the right ended with powerful flanker Cameron Gentiles forcing his way over in the corner. Strang’s a fine conversion from the touchline stretched the lead to 12-27.
Fylde heads didn’t drop as they haven’t right through this difficult season. Head coach Warren Spragg began to make changes, no doubt on account of the young players involved for Lancashire Under-20s the following day.
The livewire Saunders scored his second in the 59th minute, with hardly a hand laid on him as he brok3 from just inside the Fylde half.
Ten minutes later a dust-up between Fylde centre Luke Fowden and Esher replacement forward Olli Mines resulted in both cooling down in the sinbin.
Fylde battled until the end but found it very hard to break down the Esher defence, though knock-ons and faulty passing didn’t help.
They carried on taking the game to the Surrey club and gained a consolation try in the final moments. From a pile-up near the line, Alex Loney found enough space to touch down in the right corner, though Smith was unable to convert.
Spragg was encouraged by the performance and said: “Our attack was probably more effective and dangerous than of late. We had a number of opportunities to score but there was definite progress on the areas we’ve worked on in training.
“We’re getting better and that’s what we have set out to achieve in these final games of the season.
“Our lineouts were good, and I was pleased that we capitalised on territorial advantage with two driving maul tries. This gives the whole squad confidence. There were too many defensive errors but overall we are making progress.”
Fylde: Carleton (Foster 66); 14 Hadfield, 13 Wilkinson, Fowden, Bailey; Smith, 9 Nicholls; Lewis, Gregory (Alex Loney 46), Irving (D Richardson 60), Ashcroft (Garrod 46), Parkinson, Corrie, Burtonwood, Fairbrother (Harrison 55).