A disappointing afternoon for Cambridge in the National League One, as they lost to Esher by 36-22.
Before the game began, there was a sense of optimism amongst the home support, as Esher were making the visit to Volac Park having lost all 11 of their previous away games this season, and even though results had been going against them, the blood and sand had been finding some decent form of late.
From the kick-off, neither side managed to stamp their authority on either possession or control of the contest, and throughout the half the scoreboard showed the evidence that the game could come down to the wire.
Esher opened the scoring after a dummy opened the space for a two-on-one in the corner. Matt Hema replied strongly for the hosts, as he bumped off his tackler to give him the space to also run into the corner.
The visitors took the lead once more as a direct result of their early command of the scrum. Cambridge couldn’t find a solution against a strong pack, and after an initial reset, the referee awarded Esher the penalty try following another dominant scrum.
Dan Lewis then replied for Cambridge, as he stepped inside and shrugged off his marker to give him a simple run-in under the posts. He converted his own score to level the scores at 12-12.
Cambridge then missed a crucial tackle of their own, to open up another two-on-one situation, which Esher again finished with a minimum of fuss.
Lewis responded again, this time through a timely interception to score his brace for the afternoon, and to tie the scores again at 19-19 as the game headed into the break.
A back-and-forth first half indicated that the second might play out in a similar vein. However, Esher never let the home side get into their stride, and they were playing with a great desire to help ensure their National League One status for next season.
After a penalty apiece brought the scores to 22-22, the remainder of the game was played almost entirely deep into Cambridge territory.
For long periods, the blood and sand’s defence held-up excellently, frustrating Esher for long periods as they gave it everything to try and cross the elusive whitewash again. However, when Cambridge did win the ball back, they couldn’t manage to escape their lines and relieve the pressure.
Either the clearing kick didn’t gain enough yards to feel comfortable, or handling errors halted Cambridge’s attempts to play themselves out of trouble. Esher continued to knock on the door of the home defence, and eventually it opened and they crossed to make it 22-29.
Cambridge were now looking to respond and score their fourth of the game also, to ensure a bonus try point and to give themselves a chance to win or at least draw the contest.
However, when the chance came from a scrum on the Esher five, the hosts were adjudged to have not been pushing straight, and the chance was gone.
Just to rub salt into the wound, Esher then came up with another late score after yet another two-on-one down the wing. This ensured them the win, which at the same time cruelly took the losing bonus point away from Cambridge and left the final score at 22-36.
An extremely disappointing afternoon for the blood and sand, as Esher now move above them in the table after taking the full five points, as Cambridge came away with nothing to show for their efforts.
Cambridge now sit 11 points above the relegation zone with six fixtures remaining.
Another hugely important weekend awaits, as they travel to Fylde, who are only four points above them in the table.
Elsewhere, Hull play host to Blaydon. These are the two sides directly below them in the table, so Cambridge know that the gap between themselves and those teams below is guaranteed to be closed further if they fail to gain any points this weekend.
Report: Dan Wright