Esher 29, Fylde 28
Fylde lost their 100 per cent record in National League One, but it could hardly have been closer in a humdinger of a match.
The visitors were leading with three minutes to go, but Esher claimed the spoils with a late converted try.
The consolation for four four-try Fylde was that they picked up two bonus points.
Fylde had travelled to Esher looking for their first ever win at Molesey Road following five defeats since games between the clubs began in 2000.
They came tantalisingly close, but were not helepd by an unsatisfactory build-up to the match.
Complications on the train to London meant they only arrived 25 minutes before kick off and had just a ten minute warm up.
Despite their disrupted preparations, Fylde made a good start and led 14-3 after 20 minutes.
A very early yellow card for foul play by Esher lock Cameron Gentiles was a setback for the home side.
Taking due advantage in the 11th minute Fylde’s pack pushed Ealing off their own ball and slick skills from Evan Stewart and Ryan De La Harpe allowed centre Scott Rawlings to brush a defender aside and crash over.
Chris Johnson converted for a 7-0 lead.
Esher fly-half Mickey Wilson reduced the deficit in the 20th minute when he converted a penalty.
Esher continued to press but the Fylde defence held firm eventually on the half hour creating a turnover five metres from their own line.
From this hooker Tom Burtonwood charged through the middle of a sparse Esher defence and showed good pace to gain 50 metres.
As the Esher defence closed him down he threw out a delightful pass to winger Oli Brennand who was able to beat the last covering defender and get the five points which Johnson dutifully converted for a 14-3 lead.
Fylde’s Simon Griffiths was sin-binned in the 38th minute and Esher exploited their man advantage with pressure on the Fylde line which ended with hooker Neil Sweeney driving over the line for his side’s first try.
Wilson’s conversion reduced the deficit at half-time to 10-14.
Fylde started the second half as they did the first, again using turnover ball to their advantage.
In the 53rd minute Scott Rawlings and Chris Briers turned the ball over in midfield with Warren Spragg making good yards before lock Paul Arnold burst through the midfield and offloaded to Brennand who was able to race in under the posts.
Johnson converted and his side had a 21-10 lead.
Esher came back using their pack to good effect and in the 56th minute scored a try by flanker Charlie Gossington from a driving maul from a line-out. Wilson converted well from near the touchline for a 17-21 scoreline.
Fylde answered straight back from the kick off, winning the ball and recycling it several times.
Winger Jordan Dorrington made good yards before Arnold was able to burst through some close quarter tackles and stretch out to score his first try of the season.
Johnson kicked a tough conversion to maintain his 100% kicking record for the day and the cushion of two scores ahead at 28-17.
Unfortunately Fylde couldn’t close out the game.
Esher continued to pressurise Fylde’s line and in the 67th minute despite some great defence by the forwards Fylde ran out of numbers and Esher centre Olli Richards dived over the line for Esher’s third try.
The attempted conversion was wide but now the home side were within six points of Fylde.
Penalties began to mount up against Fylde and Esher again worked the ball into the corner and were able to get the all important late score minute when full-back Spencer Sutherland found enough space to score.
Wilson held his nerve to kick the winning conversion and break Fylde hearts despite the consolation of two bonus points.
Fylde remain only three points off the top of National One after a tough start to the season and will feel unlucky not to have won this one.
However, they will take comfort from a good performance under difficult circumstances against a decent side.
Loughborough Students visit the Woodlands on Saturday and the Fylde squad will have an opportunity to get back to winning mode.
Fylde head coach Mark Nelson said: “We look at it in perspective.
“ We have 16 points at the end of September and I’m happy with this.
“To lose by a single point when you’re up by 11 entering the final quarter of the game is disappointing.
“We need to show more maturity under pressure, but I can’t fault the attitude and effort of the players.
“The lads won’t be too disheartened and they will use the manner of this defeat to motivate themselves for Saturday when Loughborough Students visit the Woodlands.”