Director of rugby Mike Schmid might have been proud of his Esher players after Saturday’s defeat to Richmond, but he knows hopes of a National Division One title challenge are now out of their hands, writes Mark Bengoechea.

Esher paid a heavy price for several defensive lapses and a general lack of precision that saw the league leaders claim five tries in the first 50 minutes on their way a 33-19 triumph.

Schmid’s men fought back with a penalty try and one from Spencer Sutherland in the final quarter to add to Andy Wright’s first-half touchdown, but the horse had already bolted.

Esher remain in fourth place in the table but are now 13 points adrift of the leaders with 11 matches left and the Molesey Road chief knows his team face an uphill battle to reach the summit.

“Our defence has been the foundation of our game over the past few weeks and we didn’t quite get that right,” he said.

“We made too many mistakes with the ball at times and tried to play too much behind our own gain line, which is disappointing because we haven’t done that. It’s a little bit out of character for us.

“I’m exceptionally proud of the character and commitment the boys had. They had it for the whole game, they kept fighting and digging and played really well and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

He added: “It’s out of our hands now of course, but there’s still lots of rugby to play. There are some good teams in the league, so we will just go about our business and try and get back on track.”

Chris Davies, Cameron Mitchell, Rory Damant, a penalty try and Will Brown scored the points for Richmond as they tightened their grip on top spot.

“Our organisation and aggression in defence were fantastic and yet again this secured turnover opportunities which we finished well." said Richmond director of rugby Steve Hill.

“I thought Rory Damant at fly half had his best game of the season whilst in the pack hooker Ross Grimstone had another impressive performance.

“The challenge now is to retain this level of intensity and performance after the long journey to Blaydon next Saturday."