In-form Winchester turned the tables on Hampshire rivals Tottonians with a well-deserved away victory on Saturday.
The 20-15 win, the first league success over Totts since returning to London 2 South-West, was sweet revenge for the heavier defeat that Winch suffered last October when the sides met.
Winchester’s steady progress since the beginning of the year was plain to see throughout the hotly-contested derby, while friendly rivals Totts, who find themselves under more pressure to hold on to their third spot, have lost three from four.
Winchester were 7-0 up inside two minutes when centre Adam Dye placed down under the posts and fly half Chris Ashwin converted following a scrum from a Totts knock-on.
Tottonians got themselves on the scoreboard inside five minutes with a Robbie Searle penalty and then went on to take the lead.
Scott Rogers fed Gareth Allen who set up a ruck, off-loaded to Mike Searle who brushed aside a couple of tackles to feed prop Danny Drake and crashed over in the corner. Robbie Searle threaded the conversion between the posts in a swirling breeze.
Winchester got back on level terms when fly-half Chris Ashwin sweetly struck with a 40-metre penalty.
Robbie Searle put his side back in front when his run foiled three would-be tacklers as he forced his way over the line in the corner to give Totts a 15-10 half-time lead. With the wind in their favour for the next 40 minutes, the home side looked as if they held the upper hand.
However, Winchester were determined not to lose out to their local rivals this time.
A brilliant interception try came from full back Nick Fielding while his side was down to 14 as Dye was yellow carded. The Australian sprinted 60 metres to touch down under the posts and set up a simple conversion for Ashwin.
The two-point advantage moved on to five following a penalty and the margin of victory could easily have been more, had Winch not squandered a couple of overlap opportunities over the last 40 minutes.
Stand-in Winch captain Matt Woods said: “Today was all about guts.
“I told the lads to give it everything that they had and not to leave anything out there.
“It’s been so long since we beat Totts and it’s good to get that monkey off our back.
“We had a lot of injuries before Christmas but now we have people coming back which gives us a strong squad and strength in depth. We have more numbers at training and are able to keep the momentum going.”
Totts are in danger of losing the third place that they aim to keep until the end of the season.
London Cornish are on the same points as Tottonians after their 42-24 weekend victory over Portsmouth.
Totts coach Gavin Williams said: “It’s very disappointing. We did enough in the first half against the wind to get ourselves in a winning position and just never got on.
“The disappointing thing is that we created try-scoring opportunities and did not take them.”