Esher 32 Redruth 12

National Division Two South

Saturday,February 26

RAPID new boys Tomek Pozniak and Phil Cokanasiga destroyed Redruth with electric pace to force Esher back into the promotion race.

Defeats against Henley and Hinckley in the previous two matches had left Es five points off the pace but, by completing a double over the leaders, they closed the gap to three points – with a match in hand – and travel to second-placed Clifton, who are two points in front, on Saturday.

The Reds have proved impossible to beat on their travels in recent times and, trailing 12-7 at half time, understandably fancied their chances of an 18th win from 22 games this season.

But Pozniak, who got off the mark early on, and fellow London Irish loan signing Cokanasiga delighted the crowd of 650 – which contained a strong contingent from Cornwall – by puncturing the visitors’ defence, whose weight advantage failed to count. Esher’s new-look line-up stretched them to breaking point in a magnificent second-half display, perhaps their most impressive 40 minutes of the campaign so far.

Esher had won 34-26 when the sides first met in October, early in the run of 12 successive wins which established them among the candidates to go up, and thought they were off the mark after six minutes when wing Pozniak touched down near the left corner flag, only for the try to be disallowed for a forward pass.

But the hosts only had to wait for another five minutes, Redruth again being exposed on the same flank when a lineout midway on the opposite flank was fed to centre Miles Rawstron Rudd, whose swivel of the hips opened up the defence and created space for full-back Jack Lavin to touch down, Sam Morley missing the conversion.

And on 19 minutes Pozniak showed his speed off the mark, Rawstron-Rudd feeding him from deep in Esher territory, the wing’s turn of pace coming as a nasty shock as he outsprinted despairing covering before touching down and running round behind the posts to make Morley’s conversion much easier this time.

It was to have an effect on the rest of the match, Redruth having to guard against further breakouts – reducing their ability to attack in numbers – yet finding it impossible to stop them. The hosts appeared to have suffered a crucial blow when wing Dan Rowland, one of their main attacking threats, limped off yet Cokanasiga, younger brother of England wing Joe, proved an even bigger headache.

Reds struck back, though, five minutes from the interval, a masterly kick to touch deep on the right setting up a series of drives from their forwards which allowed lock Ed Pascoe to go over, Frazer Honey reducing the gap to five points. It was appropriate reward for the share his side had enjoyed of the first half.

They were perhaps fortunate that wing Kyle Bradley was only sent to the sinbin rather than being banished altogether in the final two minutes of the first half, following a dangerous tackle, but rather than just surviving being a man down in the early stages of the restart, they might have gone ahead only for a knock-on to cost them.

Es took advantage to grab control of the match, a prolonged period of superiority rewarded when Cokanasiga proved elusive, Morley’s extras making it 19-7 on 53 minutes.

Another display of devastating speed on the counter-attack from Pozniak opened up the gap still further within four minutes, storming down the left touchline for the bonus point try, and although Morley could not land the conversion he quickly despatched a penalty.

Yet it was Cokanasiga who stole the show with his second, breaking from near his own line and flying down the pitch – to the obvious delight of supporters in the clubhouse beckoning him towards them – to ensure Esher celebrated a fine comeback victory. Replacement Richie Kevern snaffled an opportunistic second try to make Redruth’s long journey home more bearable but there was no doubt who had been the stars of the show

Fixtures – March 5: Clifton (A); 12: Westcliff (H); 19: Worthing (A); 26: Albanian (A); April 2: Guernsey (A); 9: Bury St Edmunds (H); 16: Canterbury (A); 23: Worthing (H); 30: Rochford (A).