Gosport & Fareham coach Scott Ashley is convinced his side are ready to push on as they return from the Christmas break against London Cornish at Gosport Park tomorrow (2pm).
Ashley’s side top London two south west after remaining unbeaten in the first half of the campaign.
It has been the perfect response to last season’s relegation from London one south – and the club are keen to bounce straight back up.
There is still a lot to do before that can be achieved but Ashley is adamant his side have learned their lessons.
‘When we went up into London One as champions, we thought that we would be okay,’ said Ashley.
‘I think it is fair to say that we underestimated how big a jump it was in standard.
‘Last season was a wake-up call and I think we learned a lot of lessons.
‘As a club we don’t want to rest on our laurels and want to go back up.
‘Lets not kid ourselves, we know that it is still a big step-up.
‘But we have grown as a team and as a club and, hopefully, if we do go up, are better able to cope with it.
‘There is no way we can take anything for granted, though, because there is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season.’
After nearly a month’s break, Ashley knows his team face a tough start to the new year with the visit of London Cornish.
Ashley has a lot of respect for the visitors, who gave his side a tough contest in their first meeting earlier in the season.
In a tight game, Gosport had to overcome their physically strong hosts, who, in typical Cornish style, posed a threat punching up the middle.
The home side will need to remain wise to that in order to blunt the main Cornish attacking weapon.
‘London Cornish are a useful side and in many ways as a club are similar to us,’ said Ashley.
‘They are a family-orientated club who possess similar playing ethics.
‘It should be an afternoon of good rugby.
‘For me, this next month is the time of year when titles can be won and lost.
‘The pitches are stickier and sides have to adapt to the conditions and grind out results.
‘We had a meeting with the players last week and spelled out what is required.’
As league leaders, Gosport know they have become a target and are recognised as a scalp for the other teams in the division.
With Guildford breathing down their necks, Ashley knows his team cannot afford any slip-ups.
Hooker Tim Snowdon is ruled out for the rest of the season after having surgery on his arm injury, but the experienced Joey Clark is ready to make a welcome return in his place.