Winchester closed their season with a fifth consecutive victory and despite having won 15 of their 22 league fixtures and beating every side at least once they could not improve on fifth position in London 3 South West.
It took Winchester just five minutes to open their account at Ellingham & Ringwood, mercurial hooker Calum McGregor sprinting in for an unconverted try wide on the left writes John Smith.
The lead was short-lived. A period of concerted pressure, the hosts pack rumbling the ball through a series of phases, ended with prop Oli Grant crashing over from close range. The resultant conversion put Ellingham 7 - 5 ahead.
At the midway point of the first half Winchester regained the advantage, winger Matt Burt side-stepping his way to his thirteenth try of the season. Within minutes the visitors struck again, ball won at a 15-metre scrum was driven forward by the pack and, as the Ellingham eight collapsed under the pressure, prop Chris Hancock made the touchdown and Tom Nelson provided the conversion.
Ellingham & Ringwood responded with a short-range penalty immediately in front of the posts, closing the gap to 10 - 17 at the break. Once again, Winchester had squandered try scoring opportunities, with the line beckoning, ball carriers off-loading to phantom support players.
We could have wrapped it up and claimed a bonus point by half-time,“ said Winchester coach Andy Fields. “We must learn to look for the straightforward option rather than go for the big scoring finish every time. We can’t seem to understand that if re-cycling works from 50-metres out, it works in the final 10-metres.”
The second period developed into a tussle between two fast-running, tough tackling sides and as the tension grew the game became increasingly fractious, players from both sides sin-binned for misdemeanours.
Nelson extended Winchester’s lead with a well-executed penalty before the Foresters launched a swift passing movement along their back line to put their winger in on the right. The conversion troubled the scorer for the final time.
Ellingham threatened to deny Winchester the victory and hearts were in mouths when the visitor’s fly-half Todd Duncan launched a clearance kick skyward only to see it sliced backwards toward his own try line.
Winchester prevailed during the tense final 14-minutes and, despite a series of frustrating defeats in January and February, ended their season as it had begun with a string of satisfying victories including the 20-15 win at Ellingham & Ringwood.