Esher 64, Wharfedale 20
The last thing Wharfedale needed on their visit to the highly-professional Esher in SSE National League One was a hiding.
Even worse was the injury toll of five, for the second time this season leaving the Greens to finish the match with only 13 men on the field in the capital city.
Esher, bolstered by all their Harlequins stars, played a fast and exciting brand of rugby which Wharfedale were always going to struggle to match, although Dan Solomi’s tries on the stroke of half-time and another in the 46th minute to bring the score back to 29-20 were causing palpitations in the home dugout.
But not even Tom Barrett’s faultless line-kicking could compensate for the speed and incisiveness of the home side, who were by now adding complete domination of the set-piece to their repeated penetration of the midfield.
Injuries of varying degrees of severity to Richard Rhodes, Alistair Allen, Lloyd Davies, Andy Hodgson and Adam Whaites (playing his 100th league match) restricted the tiring Greens to cameo bursts from Phil Woodhead and newcomer Dan Stockdale, who was caught just short of the line after selling an outrageous dummy, bought by the entire Esher side and all 500 spectators.
Prompted by superb performances from full back Walker and flanker Clifford, the inevitability of Esher’s final tsunami of points – four converted tries in the last 16 minutes – was cruel and undeserved punishment for the brave but bruised Greens players who had given their all.