By MARK BENGOECHEA
PETER WINTERBOTTOM says Esher's defence must step up to the plate if they are to cause an upset at league leaders Taunton Titans on Saturday.
The West Country side are on a roll with four straight wins catapulting them to the top of National League Two South and buoyed by an impressive 36-10 at Clifton last weekend.
And Esher Director of Rugby Winterbottom knows the Titans will be thirsting for revenge after going down 10-8 at Molesey Road in November in a game the visitors dominated for long periods.
But Winterbottom feels his side have raised their game against the league's big guns and is calling for the attitude that took them to an impressive win at Leicester Lions last month.
He said: "This is probably our most difficult game of the season and of course they're on a bit of a roll. They beat Clifton comfortably away last weekend and now they're on their own patch.
"They've got a side really fighting for promotion and need every point they can get so it's going to be very difficult for us. But it's just the sort of game we will be up for. The boys know the task in hand and know what they need to do.
"But our defence will be absolutely crucial down there. They have some big ball carriers, they play a real pressure game, and if you allow them to win that gain-line battle, you are going to struggle, so our ferocity in defence, our tackling technique, have got to be spot-on.
"But when we're up for the game and hit our straps, we are capable of beating anybody in the league. We have been inconsistent this season but against the big sides we have been competitive, apart from in the second half against Henley where we were disappointing and ended up being beaten heavily."
Seventh-placed Esher are themselves on a four-match unbeaten run and eased to a 40-7 victory to claim the league double over Bournemouth last Saturday.
Winterbottom said: "All in all it was a good result, even though we made a plethora of errors and made it difficult for ourselves through basic skill errors, so we were a bit rusty in places. But we scored some good tries and there were some good areas of play."
The Eees make two changes to their line-up with Harrison Collins starting at No8 after coming off the bench against Bournemouth with Lorcan Dow moving to the bench. The other change is at fly-half as James Chaumeton takes over from Tristan Roberts.
There are also several changes on the bench with prop Oisin Kearney being drafted in as Tom Lloyd has to undergo an arm operation. Hugh Sloan, Sam Bullock and Devlin Hope are the other replacements.