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'Stoke desperate to build on big win
BASINGSTOKE RFC are right back in contention for a play-off place – and director of rugby James Croker is determined not to allow his side to undo their good work in beating Chichester by slipping up against lesser sides.
The Down Grange club are just one point behind second-placed Chichester in the London One South table after beating the Sussex side 26-16 last week.
It was a great victory and could turn out to be a watershed moment for ’Stoke, who had previously struggled against the other top teams – but they must continue to win every week in order to claim second place and the play-off spot.
Croker said: “It’s the morning after the night before. What we need to do is get back on it because we do not want all of the hard work we did to beat Chichester to end up counting for nothing.
“There is a buzz around the whole club but there are still nine fixtures left, so there’s a long way to go. Having got into this position, we cannot afford to squander it by taking anything for granted.
“We have got a run of games that we are looking forward to and hope we can get some results from. It’s a pretty good run if we just take each game as it comes and keep our eye on the ball.”
With so little separating Basingstoke and Chichester, who do not meet again this season, bonus points look set to play a crucial role in deciding which side eventually finishes second.
“Bonus points are going to be vital but until the end of the season we will not know which missed bonus points are going to cost teams,” Croker said. “The one we missed against Old Colfeians is the difference between second and third at the moment, but we have learned our lessons from games like that.
“We have got to make sure we win games but if we get starts like the ones we have been getting of late, there is no reason why we cannot get our tails up early and secure the four tries we need.”
Next up for Basingstoke is a tricky trip to Hove on Saturday (kick-off 2.15pm). ’Stoke were comfortable 60-3 winners when the sides met at Down Grange earlier in the season but the Sussex side are capable of springing a surprise, particularly at home, as they proved by beating Chichester in December.
“Hove away is a banana skin,” Croker said. “They are tough to break down and when they get ahead they have quite a knack of staying there.
“They are also a different beast on their own patch so we will need to go out and get an early advantage. It’s vital that we get off to a good start.
"We have got a pretty good record against them but I think that is more to do with us playing well. They are a good side and we have just played some good rugby against them.”
Basingstoke welcome back flanker Ryan Davis but second row Jake Henderson is missing, along with scrum-half Guy Wilkinson as he continues to recover from a burst appendix.