BASINGSTOKE RFC gave their hopes of promotion from London One South a major boost with a vital victory over Chichester.
Freddie Gleadowe touched down twice and there was also a try for Gareth Kelly as ’Stoke produced an outstanding team performance to beat their promotion rivals 26-16 at Down Grange on Saturday.
With East Grinstead looking set to run away with the title and the one and only automatic promotion spot, Basingstoke and Chichester are the main contenders to fight it out for second place – and the chance to go up via a play-off.
Despite Saturday’s result, the Sussex side remain second– but Basingstoke are now only one point behind them.
’Stoke director of rugby, James Croker, said: “There’s only one point in it now, so it’s all to play for. We are right back in the hunt for promotion.
“Overall, it was a tremendous performance. We had complete control of the game for the whole 80 minutes and once we got ahead, there were always two scores between the sides.
“There is just a five per cent niggle that we should have got the four-try bonus point because we were dominant in the last five minutes. Had we got it, we would be in second place now.”
Chichester are renowned for the power of their pack and must have fancied their chances on a damp and dreary afternoon in north Hampshire – but the home forwards more than matched them.
“We managed to play our own game rather than worry about them and our pack was outstanding, pushing Chichester all over the park,” an ebullient Croker added. “We controlled the mauls and, while they had pressure in the corners, they could not get over the line.
“Having our first-choice half-back pairing back also made a huge difference. Jamie Fish at scrum-half and Adam Davies at fly-half both contributed massively, while we were strong in midfield.”
The victory was the first Basingstoke have achieved under Croker against a side in the top four of the table – and the ’Stoke coach is now looking for his side to kick on.
“Getting the win is massive for us, both mentally and in terms of the league standings,” he said. “We have got a super-talented group of lads, who are fantastic to work with.
“They needed that result and hopefully this one big win can propel them to the next level of their development.”
See The Monday Gazette, on sale now, for a full report and more pictures from Basingstoke’s excellent victory.