Team Solent put a two-match blip behind them to beat pre-season Snows Group Hampshire 1 title favourites Fordingbridge 28-16 as they got themselves firmly back in the promotion race.
Bridge have dropped to fifth but are just five points off the leaders and confident they can make that up in the second half of the season.
There was just one point between the sides at half-time, the New Forest visitors’ three penalties from the boot of Mat Norton against a penalty for Solent’s Rob Walters and a try by captain George Knight from a rolling maul.
Solent started the see-saw second half by applying pressure in Bridge’s 22 and it was fly-half Walters who cut inside to score under the posts.
The home side then soaked up a barrage of attacks for a quarter-of-an-hour – down to 14 at one point with with a sin binning – and went behind again after Fordingbridge wing Dan Brown touched down and Norton converted.
Back came Solent when prop Jack Smith tunnelled over from short range and he got the final try of the game in a frantic last ten minutes as both sides pushed for victory.
The last say went to Solent fly half Walters who nailed a drop goal to give his side a rather flattering 28-16 win in a very even contest.
Solent skipper George Knight said: “It was great to get the win after the disappointing last few weeks, especially playing as good a team as Fordingbridge are.”
His Fordingbridge counterpart, James Greenwood, still believes his side can achieve their aim of automatic promotion in a race that sees just five points separating the top handful of clubs.
He said: “We’ve had a string of five away games and the toughest games are out of the way before Christmas.”
Millbrook continue to set the pace at the top after another strong win but second-placed Andover matched the leaders’ emphatic victory to keep up the pressure.
Brook took their turn to rattle up a big score at Alton – winning 77-10.
A first half-hat trick from centre Mike Thomas, tries from wingers Mike Randell and Matt Randell and four conversions and a penalty from Rich Colmer gave Brook a 36-3 half-time advantage.
Mike Thomas capped a fine individual performance with another two tries, Mike Randell completed his hat-trick and there were further scores from forward Lee Taylor, fly half Colmer and front row Dean Vincent. Rich Colmer kicked three more conversions.
Andover also produced a top away win – 76-3 at Southampton who drop back to second-from-bottom.
Southampton fought bravely throughout and did enough to give them hope in their battle to avoid relegation, especially up front.
Andover, although not quite at their best, were far too much for them. Four tries from prolific centre Jack Stott paved the way and single efforts from seven of the eight forwards – skipper Marc Wilding, Nic Reed, Tom Waite, Matt Moore, Craig Snook, Simon Preece and Paul Tuinsakea all went over and winger Sam Froggett was the only other back to score.
Romsey picked up a welcome 26-5 home win over Overton to create a small gap above the relegation zone – Rob Stent and Mike Peace got two of Romsey’s tries.