Esher (24) vs Rotherham Titans (12) - Championship
Esher will no doubt be confident of achieving their first victory of the season following their impressive 13 all draw, away at high-flying London Welsh on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, Titans will be keen not to become Esher first ‘scalp’ of the season and complacency is not something that the Clifton Lane based side do.
Depending on other results over the weekend, a Titans victory could see them end 2011 in second spot with just 6 games remaining in stage 1 of the Championship.
The two sides have met on seven previous league occasions with Rotherham holding a 5-2 advantage. Despite Esher’s lowly league position, the game is anticipated to be a tight affair. Rotherham narrowly beat them 12-3 at Clifton Lane back in October, whilst the corresponding fixture last season saw Esher edge a narrow 23-19 victory.
Titans coach Andre Bester has targeted 50 points as the mark where he can rotate his squad and a win at Surrey-based Esher will see that target realised. Although Bester acknowledges the task ahead will be a tough one, “The important thing is for us to look at ourselves and get consistency in our performances. We know we have a tough match ahead of us down at Esher and I don’t think their league position reflects how close some of their matches have been.
“They gave us a hard time at Clifton Lane earlier in the season and we couldn’t score a try against them and we only beat them 12-3. They have an excellent defence and they defend outstandingly well with a lot of pride and passion. There is only respect from our side for Esher.”
Bester continued, “Our goal is to get to 50 points in order to give us the opportunity to rest some of our guys who have been probably overplayed so far this term. We don’t want to see fatigue creeping into our players and we can’t afford a lacklustre performance down there.
“We need to be on our game and take the game to Esher; we need to be very focussed. It’s not whether we want the points, we need the points and there’s a difference between wanting something and needing something.
“I can assure you there is no complacency coming from our side; Esher has already shown us what they can do. Even before their result at London Welsh we were aware of the threat they are capable of posing to any side in the division.
“Last week we were very professional with how we went about our job against Nottingham and we will need to be professional again against Esher. That being the case, then we would be optimistic of achieving the result we want.”
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Sam Dickinson (Capt.).
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Ben Harris, 19 Carl Kirwan, 20 Stephen Hamilton, 21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson.
Titans suffer off-day at Esher
A tight first half saw Esher go in at the break 6-5 ahead after Rotherham appeared to be somewhat lacklustre, devoid of the high intensity they are renowned for. Two Mark Atkinson penalties to a Shane Monahan try, his 7th of the season, separated the teams.
Garry Law missed two first half penalties that he would normally knock over which will have disappointed the Championship’s leading points scorer.
Ian Kench’s try 2 minutes into the second half will have disappointed Andre Bester as the lock forward galloped down the left flank without too much opposition.
Robin Copeland’s converted try on 44 minutes gave Titans a 12-11 lead and raised expectations that they could push on to victory, despite not being at their best.
However, a 46th minute penalty by flanker Peter Synnott was followed by centre Phil Mackenzie running 40 metres through Titans defence without a hand being laid on him to score near the posts. Synnott converted to extend the hosts lead to 21-12.
Just after the hour mark Synnott added another 3-pointer as Rotherham struggled to string many meaningful phases together.
Titans did press and threatened Esher’s line on several occasions inside the final 15 minutes, unfortunately self-inflicted errors cost them the opportunity to add further points.
Post game a disappointed Andre Bester reflected, “I thought Esher played very well and they took the game away from us. We were undisciplined in the first half and we made wrong calls at critical times. We missed kicks at posts which we don’t normally do and pretty much everything we did went wrong.
“You get these types of matches throughout the season and we’ve seen all the top sides get turned over; I’ve said repeatedly any team can beat anyone on any given day.”
Bester continued and added positively, “It may turn out to be a good lesson learned. We weren’t a bad side before Esher and if we learn our lesson, we’ll be a better side for the experience.
“Our first target is still to get to 50 points; that has now been delayed but we will get there and then we’ll rotate the squad and keep our eye on the big picture.”
Referee: Terry Hall
Titans: Monahan (T), Copeland (T), Law (1C).
Esher: Kench (T), P. Mackenzie (T), Atkinson (2P), Synnott (2P, 1C).
Titans: 15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright (Cliffie Hodgson 51), 13 Dave McCall (Stephen Hamilton 42), 12 Pale Nonu, 11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill (Jamie Kilbane 67), 2 Dan Baines, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Adrian Griffiths (Carl Kirwan 73), 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Sam Dickinson (Capt.).
Not Used: Ted Stagg, Ben Harris, Matt Rhodes.
Esher: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Phil Mackenzie, 12 Arran Cruickshanks, 11 Andy Wright, 10 Mark Atkinson, 9 Jamie Mackenzie (Andy Garner 61), 1 Dave Millard, 2 James Campbell (Kevin Corrigan 73), 3 Will Collier (Cameron Zeiss 63), 4 Ian Kench, 5 Charlie Matthews (Tom Alexander 73), 6 Sam Stitcher (Capt.), 7 Peter Synnott (Chris Goodman 74), 8 Mike Macfarlane.
Not Used: Nicky Little, Tom Cheeseman.