JOE Weatherley was unable to bat as injury-hit Hampshire lost ground at the top of the Specsavers County Championship.

Chasing an improbable 418 to win, the visitors collapsed from an overnight 12 for one, to 104 for nine, with Weatherley unable to bat because of an ankle injury.

Jack Leach claimed three wickets and there were two each for Lewis Gregory, Jamie Overton and Dom Bess as only James Fuller, who made 35, offered much resistance.

Somerset took a maximum 24 points from their sixth win in eight games to extend their lead at the top of the First Division, while Hampshire had to settle for six points.

Hampshire remain third for the time being but are now 45 points adrift of Somerset. 

With Tom Alsop (hamstring) also nursing an injury, Hampshire faced a mountainous task at the start of play.

It soon got even tougher as Ajinkya Rahane, without adding to his overnight score of eight, drove loosely at a wide ball from Gregory and Overton claimed a sharp catch at second slip.

Overton then found the edge of nightwatchman Kyle Abbott’s bat as he defended against a sharply rising ball and wicketkeeper Steve Davies took a straightforward catch.

Soon it was 28 for four as Rilee Rossouw guided a short delivery from Overton straight to Tom Banton at gully and departed for eight.

Things almost got worse for Hampshire with the total on 32 when Sam Northeast and Fuller got in a tangle over a quick single. With both batsmen stranded in the middle of the pitch, Bess took careful aim from cover, but missed the stumps at the bowler’s end.

Overton, looking to add to his five first innings wickets, again worked up good pace from the River End, while Gregory also posed plenty of problems as Northeast and Fuller looked to see off the opening bowlers.

They did so, but Fuller then needed some good fortune on 21 when Davies fumbled a clear stumping chance off Leach, who had replaced Overton.

Tim Groenewald took over from Gregory seeking his 400th first class wicket.

He bowled tidily without getting it and it was Leach who struck a big blow by having Hampshire captain and first innings centurion Northeast brilliantly caught by Tom Abell at cover for 23.

The Somerset skipper dived forward full length to get his fingers under the ball and leave the visitors 85 for five with lunch still 25 minutes away.

Keith Barker could contribute only four before picking out Abell at short mid-wicket as he looked to work Leach through the leg side.

Fuller produced some belligerent blows, hitting two boundaries in an over from Bess, before the off-spinner took revenge by bowling him.

At 97 for seven, Hampshire opted to send in Fidel Edwards, rather than risk aggravating the injuries to Alsop and Weatherley.

When Edwards was bowled by Leach he appeared ready to shake hands, but out limped Alsop to bat with a runner for the second time in the game.

The lunch interval was delayed and by 1.05pm the match was over, Leach taking a catch at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Mason Crane.

It was Somerset’s first Championship win over Hampshire at Taunton since 1996 and suggested they could well be on course for a first ever title.

Hampshire manager Adi Birrell said: "While the damage to Joe Weatherley's ligaments in his foot and Tom Alsop's hamstring pull didn't help, to be bowled out in less than 40 overs is hurtful.

"We didn't apply ourselves as we might have today and it is not resting well with us in the dressing room. Somerset batted fast in their first innings and their run rate of 4.6 an over suggested we didn't bowl well.

"We would have liked to bat first because going in last on that pitch was always going to be tricky against two good spinners and some good seamers too. Having said that, it was disappointing to capitulate in the way we did."

Somerset captain Tom Abell said: "I didn't think I would be sitting here at lunchtime talking about victory because I expected a really tough day. But once again our bowlers have performed fantastically well, as they have been doing all season.

"It was still a pretty good wicket to bat on, but Jamie Overton and Lewis Gregory got the ball swinging at the start of the morning and really set the tone before our spin twins came to the party too.

"I thought the key to winning was the work we put in with the ball on day two. That put Hampshire under pressure and all credit to Jamie and Lewis for the way they bowled throughout the match.

"We know we have 20 wickets in the locker every game we play. Of course, we can't avoid thinking about that first-ever title because so much is written and spoken about it.

"But it's for the supporters and media to get excited. We will continue to look no further ahead than the next game, which is now against Notts next week. If we can win that it will be another important step towards our goal."