SALISBURY Rugby Club's early-season promotion push once again faltered against a well-prepared Cheltenham side, who have made an impressive start to the campaign.
On a sunny afternoon and with the playing surface at the hosts' Prince of Wales Stadium perfectly prepared, Cheltenham wasted no time enacting their game plan.
Playing with decisive intent, they spun the ball wide to their pacy wingers at every opportunity.
Within ten minutes, Cheltenham were rewarded with their first try, a well-worked move putting them 5-0 up.
Salisbury swiftly regained their composure, only to concede a penalty, gifting the home side an eight-point lead.
Soon after, a careless clearance by Cheltenham's scrum half presented James Kay with a chance to charge it down, pick up and go over for Salisbury's first try, which also went unconverted.
Cheltenham's wide game once again came to their rescue in the 30th minute, as their left winger sped away to claim another five-pointer.
Although Cheltenham were consistently quicker to the breakdown, Salisbury knuckled down and, approaching the end of the half, were in the ascendency, only to lose their own line-out.
The home side put the mistake to good use, going over in the dying minutes of the half, against the run of play to take their half time lead to a commanding 25-8.
From the restart, Salisbury took up where they had left off, Gareth Blackborow gaining valuable yardage.
From a well-executed line-out, Johnny Campbell-Jones received the ball in midfield and neatly chipped over the cover defence, before a kind bounce allowed him to go over for a great individual try.
Salisbury now had Cheltenham on the run sterling tackles from Nick Triniman, Richard Roe and Gareth Blackborow providing the visitors with much-needed turnover ball.
Breaking out of defence, Johnny Campbell-Jones linked well with Liam Gilbert, who showed a clean pair of heels, sprinting in to narrow the gap to 25-18.
With the pressure on, Cheltenham's error-count ratcheted up.
James Kay and Dave Thorpe made good ground but failure to preserve possession allowed Cheltenham the opportunity to steal the ball and stymie Salisbury's progress.
The pace was fast and furious and Rob Larcombe in his first game at scrum-half for Salisbury's first 15 did a good job under considerable pressure.
With time running out, Cheltenham scored two successive tries to forge ahead 37-18.
Salisbury still created their share of chances but one or two wrong options afforded Cheltenham the opportunity to strike again and finally put the win out of reach, adding a late try to take the final score to 42-18.
New skipper Nick Triniman admitted that his side was beaten fair and square by a big and strong Cheltenham outfit.
He said: "They were a bigger team and their superior fitness really told in the last ten minutes, which was when they finally put it out of reach for us."
However, the captain was full of praise for his side's work rate, adding: "If we can keep showing the same commitment against other sides, it will reap dividends."
On Saturday, Salisbury are at home to newly-promoted Trowbridge (3pm) and will need to make home advantage tell if they are to stay in touch with the league's early pacesetters A good home crowd is expected following the first vice presidents' lunch of the season.
The skipper added: "Trowbridge are a good side and they're unquestionably in this league because they deserve to be, so they are not to be underestimated.
"We need to come out with all guns blazing and a VPs' lunch always brings out a good, boisterous crowd, which should help."
Phil Carr and Tim Shipsey are both recovering well following last week's clash of heads, but are unlikely to return to the side for Saturday's game.
However, with Salisbury's second string currently in storming form, quality replacements are in plentiful supply.
The captain said: "Selection is becoming more and more difficult - and that can only be a good thing."