Esher's defensive benchmark has been set
Esher head coach Ollie Smith’s men have been left in no doubt as to what he expects from them in terms of their defence this season.
The Molesey Road outfit held out in the dying moments of Saturday’s National Division One 38-34 win at Blaydon to push their way into the league’s top four.
It came in stark contrast to last weekend’s 54-41 win over Old Albanians that saw Smith’s men conceded four tries in the lacklustre final quarter that left the head coach fuming.
Esher have leaked 182 points in six games this term with only three teams in the league – including bottom two Macclesfield and Loughborough Students – conceding more.
And the former Leicester Tigers and England centre, who built his own game on a sound defence, admitted he hoped his men now had the message.
“My defence was always a strong part of my game so it has been frustrating to see us leak points,” he said.
“In the last three or four minutes on Saturday we defended really, really well, but it shouldn’t take a four-point margin to make you want to defend like that.
“If you had been around the club last week the players were under no illusion that the Old Albanians performance in the last 20 minutes was unacceptable.
“If they had been conceded throughout 80 minutes then that would have been slightly different, but to concede four tries in the last 20 minutes having already scored 54 points is just not on.
“Ian Kench said in the huddle after Saturday’s win that defending boiled down to how much you want it. That cannot be coached.
“The boys have shown what they can do when they have to and that is the minimum standard they must stick to.”
Esher host Sedgely Park on Saturday before travelling to league leaders Ealing the following weekend and then hosting third-placed Cinderford on October 27.
And Smith admitted it was a big three matches for his side.
“When you want to win the league every game is a big game,” he said.
“Champion teams learn to deal with that pressure and perform at their best each week and that is where we need to be.
“We are happy with how things have gone so far. We should have only lost one game by now though, but we are nicely positioned and the next three games will test us.”
Smith confirmed fly half Luke Daniels is liable to be missing for a few weeks with a twisted rather than broken ankle, while locks James Inglis and Harlequins academy youngster George Merrick are also sidelined for the time being.