EA S T L E I G H won the Gales Hampshire Plate, sponsored by Fullers Brewery, in a hard-fought game with Farnborough at Bishopstoke.

The visitors were runners- up last season and fought tenaciously to avoid being bridesmaids again, only to succumb 15-8.

The game was played in a biting wind, making handling difficult, and both sides were better in defence than co-ordinated attack.

Eastleigh attacked from the start and a driving maul soon set up a position near the line.

After five minutes of continuous pressure, Andy Dowan drove them back with a well-struck clearance, only for a great tackle by Paul Fudio, who had a tremendous game, to put the home side on the attack again.

With their pack in charge of the set-piece, Eastleigh mounted a move from the halfway.

Pete Noonan fed Dave Craddock, who off-loaded in the tackle, and Rich O'Donnell raced to the line before finding the supporting Wayne Hayward to score with ease.

They came close to increasing the lead when a driving maul led by Mark Donaghue went close to the line and Mick Holmes was held up just short. A penalty was conceded and Farnborough survived.

Having wind advantage in the second half, Eastleigh looked to build their lead but, from a line-out five metres out, the ball was blown off line in the wind and Farnbor-ough cleared to the 22.

This time, a clean take got the Eastleigh line moving and, despite a pass going to ground backwards, Noonan gathered and fed Hayward on the burst, and he powered his way over for a fine try. Tim Liston converted.

Farnborough continued to compete but a line-out steal and break by Nick Mucci kept them in their own half.

The visitors' scrum was disrupting the Eastleigh heel and Sean Hayes was struggling to get the ball away, but his valiant tackling round the edges stopped Farnborough making progress.

At last, a good ball gave Noonan space and his long kick was chased down by Fudio. A penalty was forced and Liston converted from wide out.

By now the wind had veered to across the pitch, which made lineout throwing less fraught.

Russ Smith made a fine catch on the Farnborough ball, Paul Taylor made an excellent tackle from the back of the lineout and the pressure was kept up.

Rich O'Donnell ran well out of defence and, from hid kick ahead, Wayne Rawlins made a wonderful tackle on the full-back to put play in their 22.

Eastleigh gave away a penalty for not releasing in midfield were then taken back 10 to a position from which Dowan kicked a good penalty.

Eastleigh nerves started to jangle when a scrum was taken against the head and Alan Angell raced away from the cover to score.

With ten minutes left, Eastleigh tried to run the clock down and were twice saved by men of the moment,Wayne Hayward running a ball out from a danger spot and Paul Fudio ripping the ball out in a tackle.

The final whistle was a relief for the big crowd.

The presentations were carried out in front of the clubhouse by Mike Glogg, President of Hampshire RFU, and Derek Beaves Senior Marketing Manager of Fullers, Smith and Turner.

After a night of celebration Eastleigh attention now turns to their last league game on Saturday when they are at home to Aldershot & Fleet in the game they must win to complete the Plate and League double.