Petersfield’s 2nd XV won 17-15 away to Winchester Knights to remain seven points clear of their nearest rivals Kingsclere at the top of the league.

With Winchester just one more point behind, league honours will be decided in the last weeks of the season. Petersfield and Winchester, both with three matches to play, each have a game in hand over Kingsclere.

On a dry overcast day on Winchester’s pitch, almost devoid of grass after a very difficult winter for groundsmen, Winchester opened the scoring after seven minutes. Having secured lineout ball on their own 22 from the ensuing maul they recycled the ball, and with neat passing and aggressive running touched down in the corner for an unconverted try and a 5-0 lead.

Soon after the restart Petersfield were in possession, and with a well judged kick put scrum-half Ethan Ogilvie in space on the left, from where he crossed the whitewash for an unconverted try to level the score at 5-5.

Winchester offered stiff opposition and Petersfield found it difficult to put together phased play or their trademark slick handling moves until eventually Petersfield broke the stalemate.

Keeping possession for longer than previously, Petersfield moved the ball from the centre to the left and back to the right wing, where Sam Dawes was on his toes to outstrip the Winchester defence to cross the try line and dot down under the posts. Unfortunately the conversion from a relatively straightforward position was unsuccessful, but Petersfield still led 10-5.

Winchester closed out the first half by electing to successfully kick a penalty, and the teams turned around with Petersfield leading 10-8.

Both teams made good use of their replacements from half-time, with all of the Petersfield squad getting game time. From a penalty lineout on Petersfield’s 22, Winchester mauled the ball forward and then released their backs for a score under the posts which was converted, putting them 15-10 ahead.

With several promising attacks from both sides failing through strong defence, unforced errors and poor decision making, the majority of the half was played in the safety of the middle of the pitch.

From a lineout ten minutes before full-time, Petersfield’s pack secured the ball. Blindside flanker Ben Thomas found a way out of the heavy traffic, charged down the wing to surprise the defence and extended his run to place the ball down under the posts for Jay Bremner to convert and put Petersfield back in front at 17-15.

Petersfield now held out against a determined Winchester, blocking close to their line a period of more than ten phases of pick and drives from the hosts before eventually gaining possession and kicking the ball out for full-time to be called.

Petersfield squad: Mark Butcher, Andy Garland, Will Cross, Jack McCullock, Harry McGarr, Ben Thomas, Toby Booth, Ryan Morse, Ethan Ogilvie, Jay Bremner, Connah Bason, Toby Colwood, Joe Potter, Henry Swanson, Sam Dawes, Monty Newton, Jorge Villalon, Oli Hunt, Harry Caines, Eddie Matthews, Robbie Brown, Gerry Devlin.

This week Petersfield have a busy schedule. On Friday night the veterans welcome Guildford Veterans to Penns Place. On Saturday there are two home matches. The 2nd XV entertain Alresford’s 2nd XV, while in a rescheduled fixture bottom of the table Bournemouth’s 2nd XV will visit to play Petersfield’s 1st XV in the Hampshire Counties One league.

Petersfield’s 1st XV will play host to Weybridge Vandals in the Papa Johns Community Cup on April 13 at 3pm.

The competition line-up comprises 32 of the top teams in Counties One leagues around England who are battling for a spot in the final at Twickenham.

A spokesman said: “Join us for a club lunch prior to kick-off as we gear up for what promises to be an exhilarating clash. Our team has already had an incredible season and we're looking to build on that momentum with your support.

“For further details and reservations, kindly reach out to our club chairman Stuart Barden at [email protected] or simply drop us a direct message through our vibrant social channels.

“Your presence and support are integral to our journey, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to share this exhilarating spectacle with each and every one of you!”

Chris Todd