BASINGSTOKE RFC were outclassed by a strong Old Elthamians side at Down Grange on Saturday, coming off second best in almost every area as they went down to a heavy defeat.
The victory saw the visitors take over from Dorking at the top of the table – and it was easy to see why they are enjoying a good season as they brushed an injury-hit ’Stoke team aside.
The hosts went into the game without a host of key players. Flankers Matt Horne and Ryan Davis were both missing, meaning that second row Andy Hore had to fill in at No 8.
They also had to do without scrum-half Guy Wilkinson and exciting fly-half Adam Davies, while winger Karl Buttle was also absent.
On a decidedly boggy pitch, the early stages were fairly even, with much of the play taking place around the halfway line.
However, Old Elthamians then got on top and while some good defending kept them out at first, ’Stoke were unable to prevent the visitors taking the lead on 15 minutes, driving a maul over for a try following an attacking lineout.
A second try followed soon after as winger Jonny Williams was fed on the blind side direct from a scrum and ran in unchallenged.
Basingstoke’s task was made even harder as they lost hooked Steve Osborne to a yellow card. More good defending stopped Old Elthamians scoring immediately, but the hosts were soon made to pay as a kick downfield went out on the full, giving the visitors a dangerous lineout.
From the throw, they broke into the 22 and flanker Harry Ledger forced his way over from close range to make the score 15-0 at half-time.
’Stoke had been on the back foot for the entire half, failing to get into the opposition 22 at all, despite having the wind slightly in their favour.
Handling errors were a major issue, with the ball too often going to ground, giving Old Elthamians cheap possession.
The visitors’ dominance continued in the second half and they secured the four-try bonus point just minutes after the break.
A lineout in the 22 led to flanker James Lindfield making the break and while he was stopped short, scrum-half Charlie Edwards finished the job.
Basingstoke finally got into the Old Elthamians 22 for the first time on 50 minutes. Matt Guilfoyle made a good break to get his side over halfway, before David Byett took up the mantle to get them into the 22.
However, again the move came to an end with a handling error and the visitors showed them how it should be done eight minutes later, replacement Rob White diving over from close range to make it 25-0.
’Stoke were improving in attack and made their second foray into the Old Elthamians 22 when Hore, who was probably the best home player on the day, made a decent break. However, once again the move ended with a handling error, fly-half Ryan Travaskis’ attempted reverse pass falling straight into opposition hands.
Having defended well for much of the match, ’Stoke visibly tired in the closing stages, allowing the visitors to add three late tries.
White went in under the posts for his second try, with Paul Humphries converting, while Williams then evaded several tired challenges to get his second score, with White converting.
The visitors completed the scoring in added time at the end of the match. Edwards made the break before offloading to winger Renford Bennett, who showed good hands and outpaced Gavin Dampies to touch down, with White adding the extras.
The result means that Basingstoke remain 11th in the National League Three London table, six points above the relegation zone.
Click here to watch post-match interview with Basingstoke director of rugby James Croker.
Basingstoke: J Kochanowski; Guilfoyle, Gleadowe, Byett, Richards; Trevaskis, Dampies; Magee, Osborne, Coghlan, Salmon, Henderson, Hicks, Kiernan, Hore. Reps: R Kochanowski, Clark, Flower.
Old Elthamians: White; Bennett, Hamilton, D Bonner, Williams; Humphries, Edwards; J Bonner, Woodall, Porter, Vanner, Melford, Ledger, Lindfield, Shepherd. Reps: Fordham, Cantwell, White.