Rosslyn Park 44 Esher 37

The large crowd who braved the icy weather were treated to a red-hot, thirteen-try, local Derby that was decided in the last play of the match, writes Charilie Addiman.

Esher started the stronger against a strangely subdued Park and took the lead on only five minutes when a good move sent in winger Joseph Beckett for 5-0.

Some inspired work by Park scrum half Jack Gash saw him set up hooker Carl Gibson to provide a chance that centre Andrew Henderson took with aplomb, centre Harry Leonard converting for 7-5 to the home side on 9 minutes.

However, Park were struggling to retain possession against a fired up and sleek Esher side, who soon scored two more tries of their own.

Hooker Billy Harding got one from a catch-and-drive following a poor clearance, soon to be followed by centre Dan Rowland after scrum half Andrew Garner was allowed a long run from a quick tap penalty, converted by fly half Paul Roberts to make the score 7-17.

Park looked set for a drubbing but came back on 19 minutes with a super cross-field kick from Leonard to change the direction of attack, met by winger Rhys Crane in full flight to score for 12-17.

Esher soon came back when Roberts slotted over a penalty, and Beckett put the icing on the Esher cake five minutes before the interval, gaining the visitors what looked like an unassailable lead at 12-25, especially when Gash was shown the yellow card just before the whistle.

With 14 men starting the second half Park transformed themselves, taking the fight to Esher.

As Park pressed, Leonard opted to go for goal with a penalty to reduce the deficit to ten points. Then fly half Ollie Grove put in a peach of a grubber kick that sent Crane roaring up the right wing for his second try, converted by Leonard, and six minutes into the second period Park were only three points adrift despite being a man short Esher were now the ones on the rack as Park returned to full complement, but as Park pressed a stray pass saw visiting centre Caden Murley intercept and sprint the length of the field unchallenged to give Roberts an easy conversion to restore a ten point advantage for his side on 56 minutes.

Park replied with a purpose, and from a fierce driving maul replacement scrum half Rory Brand whipped the ball wide for Henderson to score his second try.

Five minutes later Grove and Leonard combined to send in replacement winger Benji Marfo to tie the scores at 32-32, with thirteen minutes remaining.

It was now all Park, and the home side came up with what will surely be the try of the season.

Some super work in confined space out on the left by Henderson saw him defy attempted tackles before Marfo appeared at full tilt in the narrowest of channels outside him, received the ball and flung himself horizontally past the last two defenders to put Park ahead at 37-32.

But there was still another twist. Esher, by now completely outplayed, had a final trick up their sleeve putting together a really good move for Murley to grab his second try and to tie up the scores at 37-37 with five minutes remaining.

Park’s now dominant pack took it upon themselves to lay siege to the Esher line. The visitors put up a superb defensive wall, and with the referee indicating the last play of the match Park had only to lose control of the ball for it to end in a draw.

After several thrusts at the line, skipper Hugo Ellis managed to dive over. Not the prettiest try he will ever score, but in Park’s position one of the most crucial. Leonard completed the formality of the conversion to bring the final whistle at 44-37.

Park Head Coach, Kieran Power, said, “Talk about a game of two halves! For the first half our mentality and attitude to the game wasn’t good enough.

“You could see the change in attitude after the interval, and if we can get 80 minutes of that we have got a hell of a team who could face anyone.

“It’s really all down to the players and their mental approach."