By MARK BENGOECHEA
ESHER must rediscover their defensive steel if they are to claim a rare win on the road at Leicester Lions on Saturday.
That was the message from Eees Director of Rugby Peter Winterbottom this week after disappointing defeats at Dings Crusaders and at home to Bury St Edmunds.
Winterbottom feels both were games Esher should have won but their habit of coughing up cheap points cost them dear and they have won just two of their last eight games in National League Two South.
Last week's home defeat by Bury St Edmunds was especially galling, giving away an early interception try and then failing to take advantage of a string of attacking lineouts on the visitors' line.
Winterbottom is as frustrated as the supporters and admits they must lift their game in several areas if they are to repeat their nailbiting 16-12 win over Leicester last October.
He said: "We gave away cheap points (against Bury) and didn't take our chances, so it was disappointing and frustrating. We gave away easy points and if we want to win games, we've got to tighten that up and make it difficult for sides.
"We probably did enough in attack to have won had we taken our chances. Obviously, our lineout didn't function particularly well in the second half and that sort of killed us. We were actually quite disciplined in the game; we gave away six penalties to their 18.
"But we couldn't finish things off and capitalise on our scoring positions. It was immensely frustrating. Over the last two games we've scored 47 points but haven't won either of the games.
"We've got to be harder on ourselves and make sure we make it more difficult for the opposition and also make sure when we have chances, we convert them.
"The lineout was a combination of things. It's easy to point the finger at the guy throwing the ball in because it appears it's always his fault, but it's not. Obviously, we've worked very hard on that this week and hopefully we've ironed out some of the problems."
Leicester Lions are in a rich vein of form, last week's thumping 39-13 win at Clifton giving them a 12th win from 17 matches to lift them into fifth place in the table.
Since their narrow defeat at Molesey Road, the Lions have lost just three matches while in stark contrast, Esher have lost six and have won just three of nine away matches this season. Winterbottom said: "Leicester have a very good lineout, one of the best lineouts in the league, so it's going to be a tough day for us in that respect.
"They've been playing some good rugby and I think we have to bring back that steely defence that we had back in October against them. If we do that, we'll give ourselves a chance.
"There's no doubt when we play with the ball in hand, we are a good side. We've got to tighten up and give them nothing and if that's the case, I'm confident we can come away with a win. But it'll be a tough game."
Esher make four changes to the side that lost to bury St Edmunds. Up front, Dan Lamb returns at tighthead with Tom Lloyd dropping to the bench.
Fly-half Tristan Roberts is out with a back injury, so James Chaumeton starts in the No10 shirt in a new half-back combination with Sam Bullock, who starts at scrum-half with Jack Walsh on the bench.
The other change sees Dan Rowland return after suspension, and he replaces Lennox Anwanyu at outside centre alongside Sam Druce at 12.