Nick Cooper claimed a hat-trick for University of Exeter as they ended the first half of the Men's Hockey League season on a winning note.
Cooper opened the scoring after ten minutes in a 4-0 Men's Conference West home win over Bristol Firebrands that hoisted the students back up to third in the table ahead of the mid-season midwinter break.
Andrew Ross doubled Exeter's lead from a 19th minute penalty corner before Cooper completed his treble with further goals on 55 and 61 minutes. The win lifted Exeter within three points of joint-leaders Guildford and Cardiff and UWIC after ten rounds of 18 League matches.
Exeter are set to restart the season at University of Birmingham on Saturday, February 2, next year, when they will be seeking to avenge September's opening-day 3-1 defeat by the West Midlands students.
University of Exeter student Claire Thomas enters the mid-season break as the second top scorer in the Investec Women's Hockey League.
Thomas – from north Devon – took her tally to 12 goals for the first half of the term during Isca University's 2-1 top-of-the-table defeat by unbeaten leaders Buckingham.
Thomas fired Isca ahead in the 20th minute after Kate Drysdale's shot rebounded off a defender.
Jo Ellis's second-half double – on 51 and 66 minutes – sealed Buckingham's victory, with Thomas admitting: "We came very close to an upset.
"We maintained a constant attacking threat in the second half and came close to scoring again but we lost out when Buckingham scored with four minutes left. It was harsh after such a competitively fought game."
Buckingham's tenth victory after ten rounds put them ten points clear of second-placed Trojans.
Isca remain third in the table, a point behind Trojans, following a hard-fought game against the runaway leaders at University of Exeter Sports Park.
Still in with a very good chance of finishing as runners-up, Isca start the second half of the season away to Southampton's Trojans on February 3.
Rain caused a number of regional league matches to be postponed but could not stop unbeaten Davis Wood Hockey League leaders Isca from claiming their eighth Premiership win, 6-1 at home to Cardiff University.
Skipper Simon Tremlett was among the scorers for Isca with Jon Wright, Jordan Hussell, Jamie Cooke and Harry Skinner adding to an own goal.
Skinner and team-mate Will Marsh have just been selected for England's Under-16 squad.
Isca host second-placed Team Bath Buccaneers A in a top-of-the-table clash at University of Exeter Sports Park on Saturday (2pm).
Promotion-chasing Exe slipped off the West Clubs Women's Hockey League summit following a 2-1 defeat at Bath, where skipper Kirsty Crocker scored for the Devon club.