Petersfield claimed their tenth bonus point win with a 48-7 victory at Ellingham & Ringwood.
They remain top of the table, four points ahead of Andover and 14 above Gosport & Fareham, whose game was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
At short notice Petersfield had to replace three players, with Eddie Matthews coming in at scrum half, Jake Bosher and Miles Sampson joining the bench, Andy Wood swapping from right wing to inside centre, and Sam Dawes moving from the bench to start at right wing.
These last-minute changes might have affected the continuity of the team, though each individual proved worthy of their place.
The third scrum of the game demonstrated Petersfield’s superiority in the set piece, with the ball quickly won and passed by Eddie Matthews to his well-organised back line, with fly half Nick Blumlein, inside centre Andy Wood, outside centre George Davis and left wing Jordan Allan all taking a pass and making yards, with full back Tom Land joining from deep on the left wing to take the final pass to score in the corner for Blumlein to add the extras with a difficult kick in strong blustery conditions.
From the restart Petersfield moved the ball through the centres for Nick Blumlein to grubber kick through Ringwood’s line for Davis, Allan and Land to chase down the ball for Land to crash down on it to secure their second try. It was not converted but Petersfield led 12-0.
Ringwood battered away at Petersfield with their preferred tactic of forwards pick and drives, with their backline continuing to threaten with runs and decoy moves. A kick to deep in the visitors’ 22 had blindside flanker Zak Jenkins charge out of the danger area on a bullocking run and pass to scrum half Eddie Matthews who kicked towards the right touch.
Ringwood’s defence back pedalled and fumbled a chance to respond while being closed down by back rows Karter Whittock and Rhys Bowen. In the scramble for the ball the speeding Jordan Allan picked up the ball and pirouetted over the line to score an unconverted try.
At the restart, in the maul for possession, Karter Whittock was yellow carded by referee Colin Revell who, refereeing Petersfield for the third time in eight weeks, must have been on first name terms with all the squad.
Petersfield led 17-0 at half-time and the second half commenced in the same way as the first, with the hosts battering away at Petersfield whose defence was immense, protecting their 22 as if it was the try line.
With five minutes of the half played Petersfield were awarded a penalty on the halfway line, which Blumlein chose to kick, successfully, against a strong crossfield wind. It was debated by the various supporters that a kick to the corner for a lineout and a rolling maul to score a fourth, bonus point try might have been the more certain option, but as it was the score advanced to 20-0.
Inside centre Andy Wood was soon on the scoreboard after some excellent play by the front five of Clark, Brown, Luff, McCulloch and Tomic, rucking to secure the ball for their back row colleagues Jenkins, Whittock and Bowen to split the hosts’ defence for Wood to take an offload at speed and charge through on an oblique angle to score to the left of the posts for the bonus point try which Blumlein converted to make it 27-0.
Petersfield had now settled down into a more cohesive style of play, reducing the speculative passes and kicks forward. Instead the pack held the opposition and protected the backline while they looked for opportunities to break out. Next to score a sniping scrum half try was the industrious Eddie Matthews, who from a ruck spun round his forwards and split Ringwood’s defence to score close to the posts for Blumlein to convert, stretching the lead to 34-0.
The bench of Jake Bosher, Ryan Morse and Miles Sampson now joined the team. Both Bosher and Morse added thrust and controlled aggression to the forwards, while Sampson added power and speed to the backs. It was Sampson, on his third run with the ball from halfway on the left wing, who shook off two tackles and saw an angled line which he raced through with the determination of a wing forward to score a converted try under the posts to give Petersfield a 41-0 advantage.
A crunching tackle by right wing Sam Dawes freed the ball from the hosts’ prop. The ball was recycled towards the centre of the park, where from 25 metres second row Jack McCulloch spotted an opening to bulldoze his way to the posts to touch down dead centre for Blumlein to again add the extras.
In the dying seconds of the game Petersfield possibly lost concentration as Ringwood got the ball to their left wing, who outpaced all the defence to dive for the line for a consolation converted try.