Horsham showed no new year hangover as they returned from the festive break with a key win that saw them consolidate third place.
Debutant Mathieu Pecharman put down two tries on his first appearance for the Green and Whites in their 33-13 home victory over Gravesend.
The victory sees Horsham open up an eight-point lead over their visitors, who slipped a place to fifth, while the Coolhurst outfit remain three points behind second-placed Charlton Park.
The home side led after just five minutes as Declan Nwachukwu broke away from a scrum and laid off to Alfie Burchfield, who found new signing Pecharman and he crossed the line.
Gravesend pressured from the restart until the ball was spilled and Horsham broke through Jordan Bell, who beat multiple tackles and laid off to Jamie Redmayne, who powered home on seven minutes. This time Tom Johnson added the extras.
Another strong Gravesend response came and saw some desperate defensive play from Horsham inside their own 22. The visitors were, however, awarded a penalty and slotted their first points, before adding a second to trail 12-6 at half-time.
Horsham started the second half well with some big carries by Michael and Richard Tredgett, which, combined with safe hands, culminated in the second try for Pecharman, which Johnson converted.
After an interception and thundering run, Jordan Smith had a try ruled out for a knock-on, but Horsham soon had the ball down again as Jack Osgood carried well for Bell to kick out to Nwachukwu, who raced home to score another converted try.
Nwachukwu then enjoyed a fine solo try, breaking from the halfway line and beating a number of players on his way to touching down. Johnston converted for a 33-6 lead.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Gravesend got a well-deserved consolation try as some continuous pressure eventually found a way through for a converted score.
Head coach Nick Stocker said: “The first game back following the festive break is always a challenge to get back into the groove but the guys settled very quickly scoring two very good tries in the first 20 minutes.
“Thereafter our excitement got the better of us for a short while seeing conceded possession and penalties which Gravesend converted to points. In the second half, we looked after the ball much more effectively and pressured Gravesend throughout scoring three further tries, all of which were well constructed giving us a well deserved bonus point.
“Probably the most pleasing aspect given the break, on the other side of the ball in defence we were well organised and aggressive which stymied Gravesend all afternoon.”
Horsham host ninth-placed Thanet Wanderers on Saturday.
Horsham: Cass, Powell, N.Bell, Osgood, R.Tredgett, Redmayne, Smith, M.Tredgettm Linfield, Bell, Nwachukwu, T.Johnson, Burchfield, Pecharman, Condon. Subs: Fairs, Goward, Steggles.
n Pulborough returned to action in London 3 South and suffered a 13-5 defeat to leaders Crowborough.