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Croker still believes despite dropped bonus point
BASINGSTOKE RFC lost ground on play-off rivals Chichester by failing to secure maximum points away at Dover last weekend – but director of rugby James Croker still believes that his side can still achieve promotion.
’Stoke claimed an impressive 22-0 victory in Kent on Saturday but were only able to score three tries, one short of the number needed to ensure a bonus point.
Chichester, who currently occupy second place and the London One South play-off position, picked up maximum points against Beckenham and are now two points ahead of third-placed Basingstoke with seven games remaining.
The results mean that there is now little room for error for ’Stoke – but it is far from an unassailable lead and Croker remains positive.
“We still believe that we can do it, 100 per cent,” he said. “We cannot afford to drop too many more bonus points but it only takes Chichester to lose one game and we are in the driving seat.
“It was a good win and we have dropped worse bonus points this season. If we lose out on a play-off place by one point, it is not the game I will look back on.
“How crucial it is depends on Chichester though. They have still got to go to Sidcup, Wimbledon and Dover, so they could easily drop points.
“We might even get the point back this weekend because Chichester go to Sidcup. They’re tough to break down at home and hopefully that will show on Saturday.”
While Chichester face a tricky trip to fifth-placed Sidcup on Saturday, Basingstoke travel to Haywards Heath, who are currently eighth in the table.
They will be determined to secure a bonus point victory – but will have to do without the services of seven first team players.
Prop Steve Osborne, hooker Lloyd Staszkiewicz, second row Andy Hore, flankers Matt Horne and Chris Kiernan, fly-half Adam Davies and winger Gareth Kelly are all unavailable.
“It is the toughest week we have had yet in terms of unavailability – but I am still confident and will field 15 players who have experience of first team rugby, which is fantastic,” Croker said. “The guys who are out this week will have to come back and fight for their places. If the lads who come in do a good job then the ones who are missing will have to be patient.”
Jon Bird or Jamie Folan will come in for Staszkiewicz, while Jake Henderson is back and will take over from Hore in the second row. Will Ford will return to No 8 to make up for the absence of Horne, while Jack Parsons will play his final game before leaving for Australia at fly-half, allowing Ash Paterson to return to full-back.