After four rounds of the Championship season, Cornish Pirates are the only unbeaten team in the league, with three wins and a draw to their credit. At the bottom end of the table our hosts on Friday night, Esher, are the only club have suffered four defeats from four; they’re also the only one of the 72 clubs in the top four tiers of the domestic pyramid without a single point to their name.
However, London Welsh, currently third in the table courtesy of three wins and a bonus-point defeat at fourth-placed Bedford, will make the short journey to Molesey Road with memories of a chastening defeat this time last year ensuring against complacency. Twelve months ago Esher opened their campaign with back-to-back wins over Bristol and Moseley, but the fixture computer conspired against them as they then faced Bedford, Worcester and Nottingham before the end of September, leaving them down in eighth place by the time we visited on 1st October. Yet the 1,800 who withstood the horizontal rain saw the home side play the perfect wet-weather game, ex-London Welsh full-back Mike Whitehead and fly-half David Slemen pinning the Welsh back with a tactical kicking game reminiscent of David Humphreys at Ravenhill.
Yet Esher failed to kick-on after that 22-19 win, losing at rock-bottom Bees the following week before securing a home draw against fellow strugglers Plymouth courtesy of a last-minute penalty try. They won only one of the next ten league fixtures - at home to Bees on New Year’s Day, three months to the day since our defeat in Hersham - before finishing Part One of the season with three wins in their last four games, including a stunning 13-12 victory over the Pirates. They took that form into the play-offs, collecting four wins and four bonus points to finish top of Pool C and retain their place in the Championship.
Sadly forEsherthey’ve been unable to build on that form after the long summer break. Jamie and Phil Mackenzie - scrum-half and centre respectively - are at the World Cup with Canada, while last season’s joint-top try scorer, Gerard Mullen, has joined the Welsh, alongside Seb Jewell, who has spent two years on dual-registration at Molesey Road. Seb was their top try-scorer during the record-breaking promoton season of 2009-10 with 23, second overall to Cambridge’s Handre Schmidt; Schmidt is now at Bedford, and currently the joint second-highest scorer in the Championship behind our own Ed Jackson. Mike Whitehead has moved to Doncaster, just twelve months after returning to Surrey from Rotherham in order to spend more time on his business interests in the south-east, while Sam Ulph made his first appearance of the season in the B&I Cup defeat to Bedford last week after a four-month lay-off with a groin problem. Two former Exiles have made regular appearances in the Esher line-up this term, with prop Robin Boot having started all four games to-date and Ollie Lindsay-Hague, recently of Harlequins Academy and England Sevens, but a product of the London Welsh minis, coming off the bench against Nottingham and Moseley.
As a consequence of their four defeats,Esherhave the poorest defence in the league and second-worst attacking statistics. Six tries scored is only one more than the aforementioned Ed Jackson, currently the division’s top try-scorer; Leeds have managed just four in four games. Those six tries have been scored by six different players, while the top goalkickers, Mark Atkinson and Robert Kirby, have just 14 points apiece; Gordon Ross is joint-third in the points-scoring charts with 56 points, two behind Bedford’s Jamie Lennard with the Pirates’ Rob Cook a further five points ahead on 63. And because Esher have played three away games and just one at home - a 55-6 defeat to Bedford in round two - they haven’t scored a try in front of their home crowd this season. Welsh have conceded just seven tries, but only one each in the away fixtures at Leeds and Bedford. Not that anyone should take any notice of the form book - just remember what happened this time last year!
Another win - and away from home. So well done guys. BUT: we lost just about every lineout. And we were playing Esher's 2nd XV as the last posting mentions. Anyone know what the problem is? We won'y get off so lightly against Rotherham or CPs.
Agree with the previous posts. We must have had 80% possession and 70% territory in the second half, yet scored just two tries in a five minute spell - both of them breakaways. And both of the first half tries came from penalties bouncing back off the posts, so you could argue that we didn't actually 'create' any of the four tries ourselves, benefitting from turnovers and lucky bounces despite our overall dominance. As Dockman says, we need to be a lot more clinical if we're going to beat the likes of Bristol and Pirates later this month.
Absolutely DanFW3! A man after my own heart!! I didn't mention that in my posting as I didn't want to appear too negative after what was a win after all. But you're dead right. I was one of those screaming "stop it" by the second half - along with Paddy Taf!!
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