BASINGSTOKE RFC provided director of rugby James Croker with the perfect tonic to his health problems – beating Hampshire rivals Trojans 48-5 to move closer to London One South’s top two.
Croker was unable to take his usual place on the sidelines as he continues to recover from a minor heart attack, but this did not affect his side, who produced a rampant first half display to see off Eastleigh-based Trojans on Saturday.
The Down Grange club were also handed an early Christmas present as promotion rivals Chichester suffered a shock 26-5 defeat at Hove, meaning the gap between ’Stoke and second place is down to just five points.
The league now takes a three-week break for the festive period – and Basingstoke will be looking to close the gap further when they host Chichester in mid-January.
Guy Wilkinson was the star of the show as ’Stoke brushed aside Trojans with an impressive first- half display in front of a big crowd at Down Grange. The scrum-half had a hand in four of the first five tries as Basingstoke wracked up 42 points in the opening 40 minutes.
They took their foot off the gas after the break, scoring just once more. Karl Buttle scored a hat-trick of tries, all in the first-half, while Steve Osborne, David Byett, Freddie Gleadowe, Gavin Dampies and Ash Paterson also touched down.
Croker’s brother Will led the side out in his absence and he was clearly impressed by the team’s display in the opening 40 minutes.
“That was a superb first-half performance,” he said. “We came out of the blocks quickly and played with tempo from the start. “Some of the handling and support play was excellent considering the conditions, and to score seven tries in the half was a reflection of the pace and power of our game, allowing both forwards and backs to be fully involved.
“The second half was a bit disappointing, as we let the tempo slip and Trojans upped their game, but overall it was a brilliant win to take us into the Christmas break.”
See the latest Gazette for a full match report.