A RECORD number of people descended on Down Grange for the annual Sparstoke Cup match, which sees Basingstoke RFC Academy and Sparsholt College do battle in the name of charity.
The sixth match between the sides, played in memory of Tom Aslett, saw ’Stoke come out on top, winning 52-0 to retain the cup, which they have now claimed on five occasions.
However, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance was the real winner, with organiser Richard Aslett, Tom’s father, hoping to give the charity a cheque for more than £10,000 when all monies have been collected.
Mr Aslett said: “We took more money than we ever have before on the night and we are hopefully looking to get up to £10,000 overall. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that.
“That would be really good because we didn’t have the auction lots we have had in the past. We should certainly be able to get up to £50,000 over the six years, which is great.
“A couple of days before the game there looked like there might be a chance we would have to call it off because of all the rain, but the weather was good to us in the end and the game went ahead.
“The attendance was probably the best we have had to date. The main stand was more or less full and the support we had from the college was really good. They certainly came in numbers to support their team.
“I think there were probably 400-plus people there, which was great considering the weather we had in the build-up.”
Aslett, who was just 20, died in July 2007 when the tractor he was driving overturned.
Due to his love of rugby, his family and friends came up with the idea of playing an annual match in his memory.
Basingstoke, the club he joined as a six-year-old, and Sparsholt College, where he trained for a career in agriculture, were the obvious choices to field teams. Both quickly accepted the invitation and the Sparstoke Cup was born.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance was chosen to benefit because of their efforts to help Aslett after his accident and just under £43,000 was raised for the charity over the first five years of the competition.
Basingstoke won the first three matches and, while Sparsholt claimed victory in 2010, ’Stoke reclaimed the title last year and retained it with a 52-0 success in 2012.
Despite the one-sided scoreline, Mr Aslett said the game was keenly contested.
“The college played a really good 80 minutes and never gave up,” he said. “They were camped in the Basingstoke 22 for the last 10 minutes and it was a shame that they could not get over the line because their supporters would have taken the roof off.
“Basingstoke had two or three players who have played for the first team and it was a good performance from them. The college just lacked some experienced players capable of finding the gaps but it was a good game overall.”
The action on the field was followed by entertainment in the clubhouse, with Ora Productions putting on a show enjoyed by both sides.
Mr Aslett added: “I would like to say a big thank-you to Steve Tristram and Kevin McDermott from the club for helping get the ground ready, while the programme, which was produced by Colin Hibberd at Microset Graphics, was top drawer.
“Richard Alexander and Ora Productions did another great job with the entertainment and are a great sponsor of the event, but the biggest thanks has to go to everyone who turned up to support the event.
“It does make me proud to see so many people there but it’s for Tom at the end of the day. It’s great that people keep turning up to remember him and it’s always a great night.
“Raising money for a great charity like the air ambulance makes it even more special.”