Gosport & Fareham retained their London two south west status with a rousing 29-22 win against Effingham & Leatherhead in their final home game of the season.
The Gosport Park victory banished all fears of relegation and came in fine style – as the hosts ran in five tries.
Head coach Barry Bridgman recognised the importance of staying up.
‘It means a lot to the club to stay at this level,’ he said.
‘We know it hasn’t been easy at times but it is a big thing for us.
‘We needed to make sure we didn’t suffer a second successive relegation.
‘Once you start slipping down the leagues it can become a bit of a spiral.
‘We had eight players under the age of 23 out there, which bodes well for the future. Keeping them becomes more difficult if you get relegated.
‘Our record at the moment is won 10, lost 10 which is where we thought we might be at the start of the season.
‘There was a spell when we got into a rut because of injuries and unavailability.
‘However, we have picked things up and improved in the latter stages.
‘We have also managed to break our away hoodoo after going nearly three-and-a-half years without a win on the road.
‘We have won three or four this season and all in all it has been a satisfactory campaign.’
The two sides served up an entertaining game of rugby in front of a sizeable Gosport Park crowd.
After Gosport & Fareham had the best of the first half, the visitors came fighting back after the interval.
It started shakily for the hosts, who had to repel some early pressure.
But they soon took charge to lead 12-5 at half-time.
Back-row Tom Batley opened the scoring on 17 minutes – supporting a good move down the left by the backs.
Two minutes later, Wes Dugan had added a second. The scrum-half ducked, dived, bobbed, weaved and dummied his way over from close range.
Tom Lewis added the conversion but the visitors responded with a good try of their own.
Effingham cut the lead to 12-10 with another try a minute into the second half.
But the turning point came midway through the second period when Gosport & Fareham scored three tries in nine minutes.
Full-back Wayne Dugan, replacement winger Kieran Darrington and centre Dom Holling all touched down for scores. Sam Foster added one conversion.
The visitors, however, refused to lie down and scored two tries in the last 10 minutes.
‘Our defence was pleasing when Effingham came at us all-guns blazing at the start of the second half and had us under the cosh,’ added Bridgman.
‘After they scored twice late on, we also finished the stronger side to see the game out.’