BASINGSTOKE RFC face a must-win game this weekend to avoid being sucked into a relegation dogfight in the final weeks of the season.
’Stoke are currently four points clear of Barnes, who occupy the last spot in the drop zone, and also have a game in hand on their London rivals.
Barnes produced one of the biggest upsets of the season last weekend, when they beat leaders Dorking 24-17.
On Saturday, Basingstoke will be looking for maximum points from their home game with basement dwellers Barking and this will hopefully open up a nine-point gap.
The Essex visitors have yet to win a game this season, but only lost by two points to fellow strugglers Thurrock last weekend.
’Stoke won the reverse fixture back in November 36-19, having led 28-5 with 10 minutes to go.
Basingstoke RFC’s director of rugby James Croker said: “We did not play well that day and we still won.
“I still expect a tough game on Saturday, as they are after their first win of the season.
“I am looking for nothing less than five points as, if we can pick up some points from our game in hand, we should be in a good position before we play Barnes at home.
“We want to make sure our destiny is in our own hands as Barnes are not going to do us any favours.”
’Stoke’s ranks will be bolstered by the return of fly-half Adam Davies, George Scott and Andy Hore.
Davies enjoyed a great day in the last Barking game with a 14-point haul, which included four penalties, and Hore also scored a try.
Last weekend, Basingstoke lost 29-14 to Hertford, but Croker felt his side put in a good performance and said: “I felt attacking wise we looked very good, it was our defence that let us down, which has been rare this season.
“Chris Kiernan, Ryan Davis and Rob Clark in the back row were livid with their performances which from a coach’s point of view is good to see and the mood in the camp is still very good and the guys are up for every game.”