A trip to in-form league leaders Esher was always going to be a stern test for James Buckland’s men, but they came through it to claim a fourth win on the bounce, 20-17.
With the Surrey side in excellent form – they trounced Coventry with a pulsating eight-try performance just the week before – it was no surprise that they drew first blood, Spencer Sutherland the scorer.
His eighth try of the season came from a big scrum from the home eight, putting pressure on Park scrum-half Tom Whiteley. The young Saracens half-back couldn’t tidy up the loose ball and having found its way into a big dead-ball area, Sutherland pounced to hand Esher the early initiative.
However, that was all that Park would yield for the reminder of the half, with Tom Whelan’s intelligent kicking swinging the momentum in Park’s favour. With increased territory and ball to play with, Mike Macfarlane – a former Esher favourite, like Whelan – crashed over for the visitors first try of the afternoon, ably assisted by Lovejoy Chawatama.
That certainly settled the men from the Rock and by half-time, they had opened up a 15-point lead. A penalty try from a rollicking maul brought them a second score, and ten points from the boot of Whiteley established a healthy gap between them and their near rivals.
They should have built on that early on in the second half, Mark Kohler guilty of butchering a great opportunity when he opted to kick on when 5m out, rather than back himself to the line.
Another couple of half chances came and went before Neil Sweeney, off a cutely executed line-out, started and finished a move straight off the training pitch to cut the lead and give the home faithful something to cheer about.
Replacement scrum-half Calum Waters added a third for the men in black and amber late on but with Tom Williams receiving his marching orders for hitting Adam Field in the air, it was always going to be tough for Esher to overhaul their rival’s lead.
Park held on for a deserved win in arguably their best performance in some time, and will look forward to returning to the Rock this weekend when Loughborough Students come calling. Kick off for that one is at 3pm.
The win over Esher keeps Park right in the thick of it at the top of National One, with the top six club separated by just six points. Park lie in joint fourth position with Blackheath, on 35 points, with Hartpury College leading the way on 39 points with a third of the season complete.
Mo Sher (@MSSher1)
November 17, 2015