WINCHESTER find themselves at the top of a league table for the first time since 1999 following their 55-5 victory over London Exiles.
However, their elevation arguably owes much to the vagaries of the English weather.
Local rivals Ellingham & Ringwood lost their top spot when their fixture against struggling Sandown and Shanklin fell victim to the recent heavy rain and the game between third place Weybridge and Bognor suffered the same fate.
Winchester’s match also went close to falling foul of the weather, the captains agreeing to play after the referee, concerned about standing water on the North Walls Park pitch, offered them the postponement.
Two first-half tries from Alex Day and captain Todd Duncan, another from Greg Sullivan and three conversions by scrum-half Rhodri Adamson gave Winchester a 31-0 interval lead.
It was more of the same in the second half – Day claimed a third try, Sullivan a second and touch-downs for Chris Hancock and Angus Adamson saw Winchester in total control until London Exiles scored a late try with the final action of the game.
“After the first 20 minutes I really thought we had them riled,” said scrum-half Rhodri Adamson. “I thought we were going to be on for a big score. It just seems to be a habit of our game when we slip off at the end of the first half and don’t start as well as we should in the second half. Again in the last 20 minutes, we played really well and blew their team away.”
Eastleigh kept their sights on the leading pack with a 27-7 home win over Old Paulines – their seventh success of the season.
The Surrey side had the early pressure and the opportunity to take the lead but missed a penalty on two minutes.
Following a series of breakdowns and quickly recycled ball, Eastleigh winger Ash Holland went over in the corner to score an unconverted try on 15 minutes.
Following a scrum, Eastleigh then put pressure on their opponents’ ten and fly half Sean Hayes charged down the clearance to score – Jon Lynch converted and followed it with a penalty for a 15-0 lead at the break.
Eastleigh swapped prop Greg King for Paul Taylor for the second half but it was Old Paulines who went over the line first to get back to 15-7.
Eastleigh retaliated on 60 minutes when full back Chris Cove scored an unconverted try in the corner and the bonus point was clinched with five minutes to go when captain Russell Smith crashed over from a driving maul following a lineout.
Head coach Andy Boyes said: “I felt we played the conditions very well and were able to get on the front foot for the majority of the game. We used the high ball well and dominated the contact area.
“Our discipline was excellent, conceding only a few penalties and I was very pleased to the see the return of flanker Tony Fudio to the first team.”