New Milton & District proved they possess all the qualities needed at the next tier up when they brushed aside nearest rivals Andover in their continuing quest for promotion.
The well-organised New Forest side displayed patience, fast aggressive attacks and a determined defence that refused to buckle when the pressure was on as they beat Andover 43-3 in Snows Group Hampshire 1.
Milton took ten minutes to settle and were lucky not to have been on the back foot after giving away early penalties. But three tries in the first half and a burst of activity just after the break, along with an opportunist score, put the game well beyond the visitors.
Tom Lyth crossed the line first with an angled break that took him under the posts and Adam Lavis kicked the extras.
Ed Stone then collected a clearance kick and off-loaded to wing Ben Smith who crossed by the corner flag and was allowed to continue to the posts to make Lavis’s following conversion easier.
Hooker Andy George forced his way over from a ruck to bring up a 19-3 half-time score – Andover slotted home a penalty for their points.
Any thoughts of the home side sitting back on their lead were dispelled two minutes into the second half. Sam Bew bullocked his way over and was followed almost from the restart as a break from one side of the field to the other ended with Ali Neal touching down.
With Lavis kicking both conversions the game was pretty much out of sight.
To their credit Andover battled on and came close to scoring from a series of five-metre scrums.
However, Milton were as determined in defence as in attack and eventually cleared their lines before Tom Gould intercepted the ball from an Andover backs move and ran in to score from the half way line.
Milton have now won ten games league games from as many starts with just next week’s away fixture at Fordingbridge standing in the way of a perfect first half of the season.
Proud coach Brendan Treacey said: “That was probably the most imporant game in the club’s history. “We have one more game to go before Christmas and if we can win that we are going to be hard to beat.”
Clive Downton's weekly rugby review is in today's Daily Echo