Winchester’s 21-16 defeat by London 3 South-West promotion rivals Purley John Fisher was a bizarre mix of exciting rugby, a disgraceful brawl and a grandstand finish.
The home side took the game to Winchester from the outset and, seven minutes from the start, scored a well-crafted try and easy conversion.
It was not until the midway point of the first half that scrum-half Rhodri Adamson edged Winchester back into the game with a sweetly struck penalty. After a fractious first-half – and some contentious refereeing – Winchester trailed 7-3 but re-started more positively and a second Adamson long-range penalty closed the gap to a single point.
With play becoming increasingly fractious and, despite losing their winger to the sin bin, Purley John Fisher struck again, Ollie Rogers’ clearance kick charged down to provide the Londoners with a second converted try.
Then, with Winchester pinned under their posts, a five-minute fracas ensued with most players involved in an ugly brawl. With punches being thrown by both sides, calm was finally restored and the referee issued a red card to a Purley player and Winchester’s Angus Adamson.
Winchester kit man John Smith was also shown red during the game after making his feelings known to the referee.
Adamson kicked his third penalty but, within minutes, a loose pass thrown across the Winchester three-quarter line was intercepted and Purley went 21-9 ahead.
At the close Winchester produced some barn-storming rugby, Greg Sullivan’s try and Adamson’s conversion taking the score to 21-16 but, despite the heroics, the final goal eluded the league leaders and they fell to only their second defeat of the league season.
Ellingham & Ringwood kept on the tails of the leading pack when they returned from Old Pauline with an impressive 26-21 win.
Dawffyd Williams and Nick Osman scored first-half tries as the Es turned around 18-9 up.
Paulines hit back with two tries but a great individual effort from captain Ross Whale and a long-range penalty handed the New Forest side victory.
The Es’ other points came from Charlie Cockram’s boot.
Eastleigh lost their third game on the trot – opponents Old Mid-Whitgiftian snapping up the two chances they were offered – from an intercepted pass and a kind bounce of the ball.
Visitors Eastleigh crossed the line in the second half through Jack Curtis and Jon Lynch kicked five points during the 14-10 defeat.
Coach Andy Boyes said: “Today’s result was disappointing. It’s been a number of years since we have lost three games in a row.
“Old Mid-Whitgiftian never threatened our line. Our mistakes gifted them two tries under the posts.
“Unfortunately, due to injury and availability, we had to make a number of changes to our back line. “The players that came in played well individually but, as a team, we were unable to convert our chances.”
Clive Downton's Rugby spotlight is in today's Daily Echo