Chesterfield Panthers moved to within a point of second placed Lincoln in the Midlands Division Three East (North), after a comprehensive victory over Sleaford.
A 32-8 win at home saw the Dunston Road outfit leapfrog Nottinghamshire rivals Southwell in to third, still some 14 points behind runaway table toppers Melton Mowbray.
Saturday’s win, in the Panthers’ first game in almost a month, was satisfied payback over a seventh-placed Sleaford, after losing the reverse fixture by a single point.
Chesterfield felt they had a point to prove with skipper Chris Ward complimenting the ‘intelligent rugby’ demonstrated by his side in tricky weather conditions.
He said after the match: “We employed the forwards in the first half to devastating effect and effectively took the game by half-time - a very good days work.”
Strong winds blew from one end of the pitch to the other, but Ward opted to face the elements in the first half after winning a potentially pivotal coin toss. The visitors, Sleaford, started like a team with the wind at their backs and forced Panthers in to conceding three penalties, however, could only convert the one.
A well-considered game plan was then executed by the home side, who kept the ball tight in the forwards and repeatedly moved the ball the full length of the pitch.
Ward, playing out of position at scrum-half, was first to touch down following a scrum but suffered injury and passed the kicking responsibilities on to Iain Taylor. On a day that did the kickers no favours, the first attempt was missed, but Chesterfield continued their dominance and opportunities would come their way.
Ash Holland thought he had scored his first try for the firsts only for the referee to award a knock-on, flanker Liam O’Neill crashed over from close range moments later.
Sleaford responded and pinned Panthers back on their own try line before scoring in an end to end encounter. Chesterfield fought back but were thwarted by some last-ditch defending.
A second-half with the wind behind Chesterfield’s backs would prove the difference. Taylor kicked well to set up the attacks and after Sleaford conceded several penalties close to their line O’Neill crossed for his second.
The hosts turned the screw, leading to further penalties, and Joe Walton was able to cross for a carbon copy minutes later. Again Taylor could not find the posts in awful conditions. Panthers walked the ball over from five metres out of the line only for the referee to adjudge stand in number eight Jamie Barnett to have knocked the ball on before scoring.
A fifth try followed moments later when, from a similar position, Barnett went over. This time there would be no contention. Ben Bunting added a sixth and Adam Miles converted.
Panthers: Paul Jones, Rob Davison, Steve Allen, Ashley Holland, Alex Allen, Liam O’Neill, Chris Brailsford, Jamie Barnett, Chris Ward (c), Iain Taylor, Adam Miles, Ben Bunting, Tye Rose, Glenn Grayson. Subs: Ali Sherlock, Joe Walton, Terry Titley.