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"Esher must stay positive" says Winterbottom


PETER WINTERBOTTOM says Esher must remain positive as they face the tough trip to high-flying Tonbridge Juddians on Saturday on the back of two disappointing defeats.

The Eees Director of Rugby wants his side to forget about the nightmare second half that saw Henley Hawks rack up 34 unanswered points as Esher lost 34-13 and their unbeaten home record last weekend.

The loss followed hot on the heels of the defeat at Worthing, but Winterbottom has called for his players to show their quality at second-placed Tonbridge.

He said: "I said to the players during the week, there's no point in dwelling on those 40 minutes because that doesn't make us a bad side and we've got to look on the positive side of things.

"There was some good stuff in the first half and we controlled the game pretty well and went in 13-0 up and realistically it could have been more.

"Credit to Henley in the second half, they starved us of possession but it was a catalogue of errors from us. We gave away a lot of penalties, our lineout didn't function and we didn't manage to get any field position or get our hands on the ball.

"That meant we had to do a lot of defending, a lot of tackling and you can't defend constantly for 40 minutes and not expect to get fatigued and concede points. Conceding so soon after half-time put us on the back foot a little bit and that resulted from a dropped ball, a penalty and a couple of poor tackles.

"We know Tonbridge will be a tough challenge. They've had cracking season and are playing some great rugby and are a dangerous side. So yes, we'll have to shore up our defence but also make sure we are more positive with the ball. That's the key.

"We want to maintain possession, make sure we use it wisely and make sure we have time on the ball and go through our phases. But it's going to be a tough day at the office."

Esher have dropped to seventh place in the table following their fourth defeat and make five changes to the starting line-up.

Up front Xavier Valentine is back in the front row with Dan Lamb recalled by Blackheath while Devlin Hope is in at hooker with Ben Atkins returning to London Irish.

Charlie Gossington also makes a welcome return after seven weeks out while Paddy Calvert joins him on the replacements bench.

Joe Beckett is ruled out by injury, so James Booth starts on the wing while Dan Rowland comes into midfield with Lennox Anwanyu unavailable due to Harlequins commitments.

Callum Monks gets a start at full-back after being ruled out with a niggling calf injury for several weeks while skipper Tom Cheeseman also makes his long-awaited return following knee surgery and is amongst the replacements

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