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'Stoke set sights on second spot ahead of another big game
IT’S ANOTHER massive weekend for Basingstoke RFC, who have a good chance of moving up to second place in the London One South table if they can beat visiting Sidcup.
’Stoke go into Saturday’s games two points behind Chichester, who currently occupy second place and the division’s play-off spot.
However, while Basingstoke host mid-table Sidcup (kick-off 3pm) – a match that is being sponsored by the club’s main sponsor, Champion Group – the Sussex side face a visit from runaway leaders East Grinstead, who have won every game they have played so far this season.
East Grinstead will be heavy favourites to continue this run against their county rivals, and if that game goes to form, then a victory for ’Stoke would see them climb above Chichester, putting their play-off fate in their own hands.
Basingstoke captain Neil Young thinks it is much harder to be the team doing the chasing and said that moving above Chichester would give his side a big psychological boost going into the final three games of the season.
“When you are in control of your own destiny it can create a bit of calmness,” the ’Stoke skipper said. “You have a bit more confidence and swagger about you.
“When you are chasing, trying to keep the pressure on, it is a lot harder to keep the morale up. When you are leading, you know you just need to keep doing what you are doing, which makes it easier. Hopefully, after this weekend, we will be in that position.”
Standing in Basingstoke’s way are a Sidcup side who have lost four of their last five to slip down to sixth in the table – but Young does not expect an easy afternoon.
“It’s a really big game, because Sidcup are a team who have tested us in the past,” he said. “We lost to them at home last year and it was a big battle at their place earlier in the season.
“They have got some big boys and are good up front. We are going to have to play 80 minutes and be prepared to accept that we might not get that fourth try and the bonus point until late on.
“They have had some good and some weird results. Their depth is not great but at their best, they can cause the top teams real problems. We just have to prepare for them being as good as they can be and expect a real battle.”
It certainly was a battle when the sides met in Kent back in November, when Basingstoke emerged 16-10 winners but failed to secure a bonus point.
However, they have been in great form this year, winning their last nine games – and Young is hoping to round off his long career with ’Stoke with a celebration by gaining promotion.
“It’s almost like a cup final every week because we know we have to not only win, but also score four tries,” he said. “We are hunting down Chichester, so we know we need to keep getting bonus points to make sure they are under pressure.
“We are two points behind and still in the battle. It would be fantastic to reach a play-off final, and if we get there, I would back us to win it.
“To go up would be a nice way to round things off for me, especially if we did it via a play-off. When you win the league, it can be a bit of an anti-climax but a one-off final would have a good atmosphere, and to win would be a fantastic end to the season.
“For now though, we need to take it one game at a time and see where it takes us.”