Esher must survive without retired skipper Slemen

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Touchdown: Esher's Mike MacFarlane scores one of his two tries in Saturday's win Touchdown: Esher's Mike MacFarlane scores one of his two tries in Saturday's win

If Esher are to make a successful bid for Championship survival via the relegation play-offs this season, it will be without skipper David Slemen.

The 33-year-old fly half was forced into retirement last week after finally succumbing to the back problem that has kept him sidelined throughout the current campaign.

Director of rugby Mike Schmid, whose side made it three wins from their past three games with a 41-17 triumph over Plymouth Albion on Saturday, had hoped he would play some part in his plans this term.

But the former Harlequins and Connacht star insisted the side can cope without him as they bid to replicate last season’s successful battle against the drop.

“I’m not a fan of the play-offs. If you finish bottom you should go down,” he said.

“But our performances since Christmas show that we are not a bottom four side and the play-offs give us a second chance.

“The last three week, have given us some momentum and it means the teams above us only have two points more than us, which is nothing.

“This is where it matters. It all comes down to the next six games and I have every confidence we will be OK.”

Esher’s form since Christmas has been reminiscent of the sort of run that saved them last term at the death.

Tries from Mike MacFarlane, Sam Stitcher, Seb Stegmann, Phil Mackenzie and Rob Buchanan accounted for relegation play-off rivals Plymouth and took Esher’s points scored tally to 376 this term.

It is a healthy haul for a side that has only won four games all season and took 14 league games to break its win duck.

And Slemen wants the team to stay true to their attacking beliefs if they are to prevail.

“We’ve played some great rugby going forward this season. We have to take that on,” he added.

“We can’t go into the play-offs and become defensive. We have to play the same way that has beaten the other teams around us this season.”

Slemen, who helped mastermind last season’s Championship survival, calls time on a five-year spell at Molesey Road that has included promotion and relegation from the second tier of English rugby.

And the City head hunter, who has Premiership and Heineken Cup experience behind him, has no regrets over moving on.

“I’ve been very lucky to have had the career I’ve had, but the decision to retire has been taken out of my hands a little,” he added.

“My time at Esher has been great and they are a great bunch of people.”

Esher’s provisional play-off dates: March 10, London Scottish (h), 16 Plymouth (a), 24 Molesey (a), 31 Moseley (h), April 14 Plymouth (h), April 22 London Scottish (a).

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