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Canterbury Rugby Club head coach Matt Corker tells his players be proud – just not happy – after 36-34 defeat to in-form National League 2 East leaders Esher

Coach Matt Corker had a clear message for Canterbury Rugby Club’s squad after they came close to a sensational win: Be proud - just not happy.

National League 2 East frontrunners Esher remarkably haven’t lost since October, but they had to do it the hard way at Merton Lane last weekend as they came from behind to edge to a 36-34 victory.

Canterbury's Alfie Orris struggles to escape Esher clutches in the city club’s weekend 36-34 defeat. Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury's Alfie Orris struggles to escape Esher clutches in the city club’s weekend 36-34 defeat. Picture: Phillipa Hilton

Corker reflected: “My overwhelming emotion was how proud of the lads I was.

“I will be honest, I always expect us to win because I think we’re a really capable group.

“When we’re at our best, we’re a real handful for anyone.

“This was possibly the first time against the top five we showed our best. We wanted to score first and our first try was just sensational. I’m not taking anything away from our defensive performance, either.

“My overriding message to the players was: Be proud - but don’t be happy. The fact we didn’t get over the line was disappointing, that came down to a few missed chances and just giving the ball up one too many times.

Report: Canterbury 34-36 Esher

“There’s lots of positives but I don’t want the players to be too happy when we did lose. We could have won.

“For me, it sets the standard. Irrelevant of who we play, it’s important that we stick to those standards. That will get us results.”

It was a ninth straight league success for Esher but 41-year-old Corker said: “I’m proud of how hard we made it for them. They celebrated like it was a big win.

“But we want to win every week. There’s no team in this league I believe we should lose to - even a team like Esher.

“It’s a shame. I would like to have played them again this season to see if we could get the result.”

Canterbury's Tom Best going for a try. Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury's Tom Best going for a try. Picture: Phillipa Hilton

The scores for injury-hit Canterbury - who were missing five regulars - came through tries by long-serving Tom Best (2), scrum-half Tom Williams and a penalty try, topped up by three conversions and two penalties from fly-half Frank Reynolds.

Corker added: “It was really fine margins. It’s a missed tackle here, a knock-on there.

“We’re probably talking about one or two that decided the game.

“We actually probably had more opportunities than they did but their ability to convert them was probably the deciding factor.”

Canterbury were dealt a blow towards the latter stages of a great contest when front-row Dan Huntley was yellow-carded as they repelled a driving maul.

Corker conceded: “That definitely didn’t help. It just created a bit more space for the opposition and stretched us.

“On reflection, it was probably more of a team yellow. Dan was right to feel a bit hard done-by.

“But, regardless of that, we definitely had opportunities to win the game.

“Down to 14, it’s definitely something we can cover - even if we don’t want to.”

Canterbury visit struggling Wimbledon this Saturday when they will look to avenge a 32-29 home defeat from September.

Corker noted: “They had a good result last weekend against Westcombe Park away from home (winning 21-17) in a really important game in terms of that part of the table.

“We lost at home against them. We don’t want a team below us beating us twice. Definitely not. But they’re strong at home and move the ball well, so anything less than our best will not be enough.”

Canterbury will have to contend without loose-head Cameron Macmillan (foot) and back-rower Jake Hengate (foot) while lock Dave Irvine (bicep) remains out. But another back-rower, Cameron Murray, should return.

“It’s now when you find out the character of the squad,” said Corker.

“Travelling up to Wimbledon, we will be tested, but I find that challenge really exciting.”

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