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Five alive - Bonus time for Rosslyn Park at derby rivals Esher
A sensational last 15 minutes saw Rosslyn Park win a match that had looked like slipping away from them, having been faced with a strong and physical Esher side.
The five-try 38-30 win gave them the five points they needed to keep up the pressure on National League One leaders Doncaster, whom they meet in a "match of the season" showdown at Priory Lane next Saturday.
Park started playing into a strong wind - they gained a penalty at the first Esher scrum, which was belted to the 22, and won a further penalty at the lineout.
An early fracas of the "handbags-at-nine-paces" variety ensued, as neither side was prepared to give an inch, and both skippers were spoken to by the referee.
The visitors then knocked-on before they could capitalise on the situation.
Esher returned the compliment, earning a free kick at the first Park scrum, then gaining a penalty which fly half Tom Whelan skilfully converted to put his side 3-0 ahead.
Park had the first really concerted attack but Esher defended well and managed eventually to turn over possession and clear.
Over: Adam Bellamy gets on the score sheet for Park
Fly half Scott Sneddon had a penalty on 10 minutes, blown off course but Park managed to get up quickly enough to parry the clearance kick, but again a knock-on intervened.
The visitors held the upper hand at this stage and gained a clear advantage when Esher skipper Ian Kench had the misfortune to be the first offender after the referee’s patience had run out. Forced back on defence, Esher had a defensive scrum close to their own line.
It was forced backwards and Sam Shires touched down against the base of the post. Sneddon converted for a 7-3 Park lead on 17 minutes.
Esher were in no mood to concede anything, turning a Park scrum just outside the visitors’ 22, to gain a penalty and Whelan converted to narrow the deficit to 6-7.
Park looked marginally the better side going forward, but were never allowed to settle and began to lose a bit of discipline, allowing Whelan to kick his side to a 12-7 lead with further penalties in the 27th and 30th minutes.
Esher’s scrum could never really settle and when disrupted again Park scrum-half Matt Heeks kicked on dangerously but the ball found touch.
Still under pressure, Esher were penalised at a scrum and on the stroke of half-time Sneddon slotted over the kick.
A two-point deficit after playing into a strong wind looked a reasonable return against such strong opposition.
Park started the second half well with a good move up the right, but a knock-on intervened as they tried to sweep the ball across the field.
Done: Charlie Broughton scores for Park
However, they again gained a penalty at an Esher scrum and Sneddon put his side ahead by 13-12.
The score only inspired the hosts to greater efforts, and Park soon conceded another penalty.
Whelan belted it to the corner for Esher to set up a terrific drive and it was skipper Kench who touched down, Whelan converting for 19-13 on 49 minutes.
Park came back with a further Sneddon penalty three minutes later. But the game looked to be getting beyond the visitors when, first, flanker Harry Broadbent was sent to the sin bin and Whelan slotted over the penalty.
Then five minutes later Esher scrum half Patrick O’Grady skipped over for a try against the short-handed defence to stretch the home lead to 27-16. Park’s title hopes looked under serious threat.
With 15 minutes remaining, replacement scrum half Jack Gash’s quick thinking started a spectacular comeback when he took a quick tap penalty, noticing winger Charles Broughton to his right.
He ran a clever angle to commit a defender and then slipped the scoring pass. Broughton did the rest to close the gap to 27-21.
Esher certainly did not lie down and hit back gaining a further penalty to extend their lead to nine points as the game entered its final 10 minutes.
Park, though, had finally managed to find top gear and replied with a super try, flinging the ball first one way then the other before Shires got on the end of it to go over for 30-26.
Sneddon’s conversion attempt hit the post, so still five points were needed for victory, and another try for the bonus point.
Three minutes later came a try of great skill and imagination. A long cross-field kick from right to left set up an attack down that flank but, spotting the defence moving across to cover, Sneddon flighted a peach of a kick back over to the right where Park had three men on one defender.
Hooker Adam Bellamy made no mistake, and Sneddon’s touchline conversion put Park ahead by 33-30 with six minutes remaining.
Move out the way: Hugo Ellis is on the charge
Two minutes later Esher were reeling as replacement full-back Tom Howe galloped strongly up the left wing to force himself over in the corner to complete the scoring at 38-30.
Esher will feel that the final score sells short their own contribution, while Park will concentrate on nothing but next Saturday and the visit of Doncaster Knights.
Park: Edwards (Howe); Broughton, Staff, Mackey, Vincent; Sneddon; Heeks (Gash); Liffchak, Bellamy, McKenzie (Lundberg); Ingles, Boyle (Bowley); Shires, Broadbent, Ellis.
Sub (did not play): Woolstencroft.
Opener: Sam Shires scores Park’s first try
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