Scott Ashley hailed his Gosport & Fareham troops after they ‘manned up’ to claim a vital triumph over Wimbledon at Gosport Park.
The head coach looked on as 17-year-old full-back Tom Lewis claimed a hat-trick of tries in the 26-20 London one south victory.
The win breathed new fire into the survival bid of Gosport & Fareham.
They are now just three points adrift of Cobham, with Havant, Haywards Heath and Beckenham all within their sights.
While Lewis was the hero on paper, Ashley preferred to laud the brilliant team display of his men.
‘Everyone stepped up, played out of their skin and we fully deserved to win,’ he said.
‘It was always going to be a tight game but we went at it all guns blazing from the start.
‘Even though we had four players carrying injuries, they manned up and we pushed Wimbledon from the off.
‘We were in their faces, closed them down and didn’t allow them to play.’
After Gosport & Fareham squandered a good chance in the early skirmishes, Lewis grabbed the first of his tries on 12 minutes.
Josh Whitehead added the conversion, before Wimbledon reduced the deficit with a penalty.
However, another converted try – this time by Alex Heron – saw the home side establish a 14-3 lead after just 18 minutes.
Fourth-placed Wimbledon rocked Gosport & Fareham with a penalty try on the stroke of half-time – just two minutes after home hooker Andy Burns was sin-binned.
But Gosport refused to let the setback affect them and two minutes after the break centre Wayne Dugan chipped through for Lewis to collect and score his second try.
Wimbledon proved tough opponents and were never going to roll over.
They scored a penalty before adding a converted try to get their noses in front at 20-19 and set up a tense final 13 minutes.
But the hosts were not to be denied and with seven minutes remaining Lewis picked up and ran the length of the field for a match-winning try converted by Whitehead.
While there was a lengthy period of stoppage-time for Gosport & Fareham to negotiate, they were soon celebrating the crucial win.
‘If you look at our tries, some people might suggest they were breakaways and we got a bit lucky,’ said Ashley.
‘But the reason we got the breaks was because our defence was so strong.
‘Wimbledon are our biggest scalp of the season and this is a massive win for us.
‘This proves we are good enough to stay in this league.
‘It was a game we had to win to stay in touch and keep our chances alive.
‘Again, we had the help of our 16th player – the home crowd.
‘The noise from them was unbelievable and Wimbledon must have found it quite intimidating.
‘We played clever rugby and won a tough game.’
The victory was all the more important given Ashley & Co travel to runaway leaders East Grinstead for a daunting battle next weekend.