BASINGSTOKE RFC director of rugby James Croker was delighted to see his side overcome a sticky start to make it six wins in a row.

Visiting Beckenham led 7-0 after 20 minutes of Saturday’s London One South fixture at Down Grange, having dominated territory and possession in the early stages.

However, Basingstoke responded excellently, scoring three tries to lead 20-7 at half-time before blowing their opponents away with a further four scores in the opening 10 minutes of the second period.

’Stoke eventually won the game 65-7 – and Croker was delighted with the intelligence and adaptability displayed by his side.

“I am really pleased with the way the guys adapted after that early spell and I think it was our cleverest performance to date,” he said. “Overall it was a good day at the office. We got the bonus point win we were looking for, played some nice rugby and it sets us up for what will be a big weekend in two weeks’ time.”

After hosting Winchester in the Hampshire Cup next week, third-placed Basingstoke face a trip to fifth-placed Sidcup, while elsewhere, early pacesetters East Grinstead and Chichester meet for the first time.

It looks set to be a crucial day for all of the top sides – and a bonus point victory for ’Stoke could leave them just three points off second place.

That is a real possibility if Basingstoke play the way they did for the majority of Saturday’s game.

After getting to grips with Beckenham’s abrasive tactics at the breakdown, the hosts ran wild. The direct running of scrum-half Jamie Fish and centre Freddie Gleadowe was a constant threat, while the backs’ intricate handling had Beckenham chasing shadows at times.

The forwards also played their part, dominating the scrum, winning lineouts against the throw and setting up attacks using the rolling maul very effectively.

Croker said: “We want to play the right way. We want to play a brand of rugby that is enjoyable to watch, while the rolling maul is an area we have been working on so it was nice to see that pay off.

“We were looking to go early at the start of both halves. We found it hard to break them down in the first half but I think Beckenham were beginning to show signs of fatigue after half-time and we took advantage really well.”

See The Monday Gazette for a full report and more pictures from the game.