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Wharfedale's energy and class is too much for Esher
Buy this photo » Wharfedale full back Christian Georgiou shows a clean pair of heels to an Esher rival as the Dalesmen stepped up their game
Wharfedale 18, Esher 15
Wharfedale defied the pundits yet again in securing a second notable scalp at The Avenue, defeating Esher in an SSE National League One game they dominated for long periods in either half.
The Greens are developing nicely. On Saturday they added some elements of pacy, and even classy, running to another solid pack performance in giving their most cohesive and balanced display for quite some time.
Neither a strong rearguard finish, nor their three-tries-to-two advantage, could disguise the fact that the fancied Londoners were outplayed by an energetic and hungrier home side.
Esher in fact, though clearly a capable outfit, were made to look a rather mechanical side, over-reliant on the strong running and experience of key players like centre Tom Cheesman and No 8 Michael Macfarlane.
Once again the platform for victory lay in the rugged all-round work of the Greens pack.
Once more, though it took them some time, they were masters at the scrum.
Their appetite and confidence in disrupting the opposition throw is growing weekly and producing a scoring pay-off. And they continue to be as big a force as anyone at the breakdown.
But on Saturday they added another dimension: pace and movement with the ball in hand going forward, with the prospect of a more fluent off-loading style.
Aaron Myers was outstanding at No 8. He dominated the game, ripping up the yards with astonishing pace and surging power with one spectacular second-half 60-yard break out of defence worth the entrance money alone.
But he is also a creative distributor as he showed in holding the defence before delivering the sweetest of passes for his side’s opening try.
With such movement in front of them to play off, the Wharfedale backs delivered some confident and cohesive handling, especially in the opening quarter.
Much of their momentum was generated by the forceful running of resilient winger Nick Taylor and his infectious appetite for work all around the field.
The Greens backs also excelled in their defensive work against a side that relied heavily on bruising midfield ball-carrying and did plenty of it in the second half.
Andy Hodgson rolled back the years and was back to his estimable best in producing a masterclass in both personal tacking and the way he magisterially marshalled the defensive organisation.
Christian Georgiou too weighed in with a fine retreating tackle, taking out a three-to-one overlap near the flag.
Scores were slow in coming in the opening half as both sides had periods of early ascendancy.
Wharfedale produced some exciting early running, building the cohesion and pace lacking in recent seasons but without any tangible reward against a well-drilled defence.
The visitors in turn proved a powerful presence near the Wharfedale line, and the hosts had to dig deep to repulse a number of threatening close drives.
But it was the Greens who finished strongly to collect an excellently-worked try when winger Simon Horsfall finished at pace after a smart Taylor break and creative work by Myers.
And, right on the break, Georgiou added a penalty to his earlier conversion for a 10-0 interval lead.
Esher, whose first-half attack had been limited to unavailing forward drives, were a more forceful presence after the break, scoring an early try by winger Andrew Wright after a powerful long break by centre Cheesman.
After some stirring play, spearheaded by the all-action Myers, the most influential player on the field by a mile, Georgiou stretched the home lead with a penalty before more rousing attack turned position into points.
Pressure on an Esher line-out forced a loose kick out of defence and led to a fine try when Horsfall’s chip over the wide defence saw Taylor collect and dive over in the corner for a dominant 18-5 advantage.
Though Wharfedale never quite managed the fine creative quality of their first-half play, their defence – with veteran Hodgson to the fore – held firm as Cheesman and the powerful Macfarlane combined to produce a series of destructive midfield runs.
Esher responded belatedly with commendable all-out attack and were rewarded with two tries in the final ten minutes.
The first was a somewhat fortuitous runaway score from full back Mark Schofield, with a knock-on start and a possibly doubtful grounding finish with the officials left floundering in the full back’s wake.
Then a final-minute second try for Wright, with a smart finish to some neat handling, brought Esher a losing bonus point.
But this late flourish could not disguise the superiority and greater authority of another fine home Wharfedale performance – one they will hope to repeat on the road over the next two weeks.
WHARFEDALE: C Georgiou; N Taylor, J Donkin, A Hodgson, S Horsfall; L Gray, J Gough (W Bell 65); C Steel (captain), I Larkin (S Graham 56), A Howard (M Tampin 54); R Brown, R Rhodes; A Allen, J Tyson (C Howick 67), A Myers.
ESHER: M Schofield; A Wright, O Richards, T Cheesman, C Walker; L Daniels, O Frost; D Millard, N Sweeney, S McGuire; C Gentles, A Bibic; I Kench (captain), R Smart, M Macfarlane.
REFEREE: Karl Kirkpatrick (RFU)