By MARK BENGOECHEA
PETER WINTERBOTTOM wants his Esher side to build on their superb defensive display against Leicester Lions when they renew their local rivalry at Sutton and Epsom on Saturday.
The Esher Director of Rugby was delighted with the work-rate of the players in their 16-12 victory over in-form Leicester as the Eees claimed their third victory of the season at Molesey Road last weekend.
But he warns they must improve their attacking game against a newly-promoted Sutton side who are starting to find their feet in National Two Division South under former Esher coach Mike Schmid.
Sutton suffered three heavy defeats in their opening fixtures but turned the tide with a victory over Westcliff and were unlucky to lose 38-31 at Clifton last week after fighting back from 28-7 down.
Winterbottom said: "I think they are definitely coming to terms with this division now. They played well last week against Clifton and were probably a bit unlucky to come away with a defeat.
"They play a nice style of rugby, they move the ball well and look to play at pace. They struggled this season early on but are finding their feet and getting up to the pace of the game in this league.
"There's a lot on the game and it's crucial for us that we put in a performance and build on last week. The fact that it's Sutton and Epsom means there is a bit of a local derby feel to it but it's more about how we approach the game itself.
"It's important we keep in touch with the leaders, Tonbridge. They're clearly the form side in the league and for us to match them we've got to keep improving.
"We had to work hard for the victory against Leicester. Our defence was very solid, probably our best defensive display so far this season, we didn't really give Leicester much of a sniff for most of the game. They were a dangerous side, but we managed to contain them. It was a very good defensive display all-round from one to 15.
"The fact that Cam Wilkins made 26 tackles during the game is phenomenal. It shows the work-rate and he wasn't alone in having a high tackle count."
Winterbottom was less pleased with the Esher set-piece against Leicester and admitted they must also improve their attacking game at Sutton. He said: "Our set-piece wasn't great, which was disappointing, but hopefully we've sorted a few things out during the week.
"But the stats from the game showed that there were a lot of boys doing a lot of work. Now we'd like to build on this and get our attacking game going. We didn't quite hit our straps in attack so hopefully we'll do that a bit more against Sutton and Epsom."
Esher make three changes to the starting line-up for the short trip to Rugby Lane. Up front, Xavier Valentine returns at tighthead while Jack Walsh starts at scrum-half with Sam Bullock on the bench.
There is also a first start of the season for Lennox Anwanyu at centre with Dan Rowland joining the replacements.