Ahead of their clash against Barnes in National League 2’s south west London derby, SWL caught up with Esher director of rugby and former England legend Peter Winterbottom.
Since effectively starting from scratch after Esher were relegated from League 1 in 2019, Winterbottom, who played for England 58 times, explained he has re-built his squad with a significantly reduced wage bill.
Scoring 24 tries already this campaign, only Clifton have managed more, they have been prolific offensively, though they may be looking to tighten up the defence which has leaked an average of three tries per game.
The former Quins flanker blames that defensive instability for Esher’s 27-21 defeat to Leicester, their first defeat of the season following three straight wins.
He said: “Defensively, I think we’ve been poor at times. We’ve played some really good rugby but we’ve leaked soft points.
“We did that last week against Leicester, we’ve got to shore up our defence there’s no doubt about that.
“We’ve got to learn in that area and improve our away form if we’re to make a genuine push for promotion.”
Learning such lessons and having a reliable squad will be crucial over the course of one of the longest domestic regular league seasons in world rugby.
In Winterbottom’s first season, his team managed seven victories in their first nine games before winning only two of their subsequent eight.
They finished 8th that season, with the following 20/21 season chalked off due to Covid-19.
Winterbottom added: “In the first season, we didn’t have a lot of depth. Since then, we’ve recruited quite well and now we’ve got 30 players who are capable of playing in the first team.”
In the short-term, Esher will be confident of a derby victory against Barnes, as they have beaten them in both previous encounters, scoring 95 points across the two games.
But they also managed to concede five tries in one of those victories, and whilst Barnes have already been beaten by two top four teams this season, their two victories have seen them look very dangerous, albeit against the bottom two sides in the division.
Winterbottom said: “Our first goal of the game is to make sure that we defend like hell and give them nothing.
“That won’t be easy because if you give them space and you give them a chance they’ll score, like they did last week against Westcliff, they played some really good stuff.
“I would rather see us not scoring at will, but actually making sure that we manage the game better, and keep constant pressure on them, whether we’ve got the ball or we haven’t.”
Esher face Barnes this Saturday at 3pm at their home ground of Molesey Road, KT12 3PF. Tickets will be available on the door.