Rotherham Titans suffered a festive hangover as a lacklustre performance saw them crash 24-12 at basement side Esher.
Titans were second best throughout and lacked their usual intensity against a side who had not won a Championship game in 15.
A bitterly disappointed Titans head coach Andre Bester bemoaned afterwards: “Our defence was poor and we are not normally a team that lets in soft tries. But Esher played very well.”
Titans who had the first opportunity when referee Terry Hall awarded the visitors a penalty just 25 metres out.
But Titans’ normally reliable kicker Garry Law missed before Esher rallied and took the lead when fly half Mark Atkinson nailed his penalty from 40 metres. Titans could have levelled but Law again failed with his penalty from just outside the hosts 22.
Rotherham finally got a foothold and after 34 minutes from a Titans scrum 15 metres out, Jimmy Williams collected from the base and found the onrushing Shane Monahan who brushed off two tackles to crash over in the corner to give his side the lead. Law missed the difficult conversion from the touchline.
From the restart Titans conceded a penalty which Atkinson confidently slotted over from 35 metres to send the hosts in at the break with a slender 6-5 advantage.
Matters got worse for Titans two minutes into the second half when lock forward Ian Kench collected around halfway and proceeded to gallop away down the left flank to touch down in the corner.
Titans’ response was almost immediate; from the base of a ruck 25 metres out, Robin Copeland picked-up and powerfully broke through the home defence, handing off Ross Chisholm before touching down under the sticks. Law converted to edge Titans 12-11 ahead.
But following a Peter Synnott penalty on 56 minutes, Rotherham’s defence was caught out as Phil Mackenzie raced through unopposed to score a converted try.
Synnott’s second penalty stretched the hosts lead to 12 points and although Rotherham rallied miss-passes and crucial knock-on’s prevented them from collecting even a losing bonus point.