Head coach Ollie Smith has admitted his Esher side can forget about National Division One – for this season anyway, writes Stuart Amos.
The Molesey Road outfit crashed 21-20 at Old Albanians on Saturday as a flurry of controversial late penalties saw the hosts run out narrow winners with James Shanahan kicking the vital points with seven minutes left on the clock.
The defeat, which ended a run of four straight wins, means Smith’s men are 11 points adrift of league leaders Ealing Trailfinders, having played one game more than this weekend’s visitors.
And Smith, who watched his side let slip a 17-3 half time advantage given to them through a penalty try and one from Rob Kirby, knows the gap is now too far to bridge.
“It was a disappointing result. The lads are gutted. We didn’t play that great, but we thought we’d done enough to win,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge for promotion this year, but now I’m afraid our focus must be on next year.
“We’ve talked all year about making sure the game against Ealing this weekend had something riding on it.
“If we had won at the weekend and then beat Ealing, the pressure would have been on them. There would have still been a chance they might have cracked over the run in.
“You cannot see them letting it slip now.
“The defeat puts a dampener on this weekend, but we still have to go out and prove we are one of the strongest teams in this league.”
Meanwhile, Esher lock James Inglis may have waited three years to make his England Counties debut, but after a 30-20 defeat to Ireland Club XV in Cork on Friday he may have wished he had not made the trip.
A broken toe meant Inglis missed out when last selected in 2009, but he finally took his bow at the weekend, while clubmate and full back Chris Elder came off the bench with a minute of the game remaining to earn his first cap.