Leeds Carnegie 22 Esher 24: Bad decisions prove costly as Leeds slip to defeat at home to Esher

Leeds Carnegie face a crucial period of two games in six games as they try to breath life into their promotion campaign following a lacklustre performance against the league’s bottom side that resulted in an embarrassing 24-22 home defeat.

Carnegie could have had the game won on a number of occasions but a lack of composure and ability to execute plays cost them dear. In contrast, Esher frustrated Leeds as they scrapped for every ball and never gave in. They had been denied a famous win in the reverse fixture in the last second but they turned the tables on Leeds at Headingley Carnegie.

It all looked so different for Leeds after they dominated the game from the kick off, particularly in the pack where new signing Halani Aulaki impressed in the first handful of scrums. After two minutes, Leeds drove Esher off their own ball and Jacob Rowan picked up the loose ball before scampering 65 metres to score a try.

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Leeds kept up the pressure but crucially tried to use brawn over brains to get the second try and allowed themselves to be dragged into an arm wrestle with the visitors, allowing Esher to get a foothold in the game.

Esher crossed for a try in the corner from Tom Alexander and led 8-5 heading towards half time. Leeds hit back through Michael Stephenson, but former Fijian international Nicky Little kept the visitors in touch with two first-half penalties to make it 12-11 at the break to Leeds.

After the break, Ford and Little trading penalties before replacement Richard Beck appeared to strike a decisive blow for the home side. His try, converted by Ford, gave Leeds a 22-14 lead with less than 15 minutes to play.

Even when replacement fly-half Mark Atkinson kicked a penalty, it appeared to be a consolation for the visitors. Carnegie then had the chance to put the result out of question with a penalty but USA international Robbie Shaw took a quick tap instead of allowing Ford to put his side two scores in front. It was to prove crucial as Esher came back downfield to score through Phil Mackenzie in stoppage time. Atkinson put his side in front with the conversion.

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Leeds had a chance to win the game but Ford’s poor drop goal attempt summed up their efforts.

Leeds Carnegie: Stephenson, Blackett, Thornley, S Barrow, Lucock, Ford, Cliff (60), Aulaki (Mustafa, 55), Titterrell (Nilsen, 60), Young (Lockwood, 48), Pendlebury, D Barrow (Hemingway, 68), Burrows, Walker (Beck, 46), Rowan. Unused replacement: Davies

Esher: Daniels, Stegman, Cheeseman, Cruickshanks, Mackenzie, Little (Atkinson, 55), Stuart-Smith (O’Grady, 78), Millard (Mayhew, 55), Corrigan (Campbell, 50), Elosu, Alexander (Wright, 68), Inglis (Kench, 55), Stitcher, Synnott, Goodman (Macfarlane, 55)

Referee: G MacDonald.

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