BASINGSTOKE RFC have been sucked into an end-of-season relegation battle, after they lost 41-24 to visiting Barnes on Saturday afternoon.
The loss leaves them just one point above Barnes, who currently sit in the final relegation spot, with two games to go in National League Three London.
The home side got off to a good start from David Byett’s penalty kick, after just two minutes.
The visitors hit straight back and from a line-out they mauled the ball over as Richard Sharp scored and Charlie Wicks added the conversion.
On ’Stoke’s next attack, they were awarded another penalty, and from the 22-metre line Byett dispatched the kick to narrow the lead to one point.
Once again Barnes replied as they kicked a penalty into touch, and from that won the line-out and mauled over for Sharp to score again, which Wicks failed to convert.
As the first-half entered the final 10 minutes, ’Stoke started to turn up the pressure, and it paid off as Jobi Kochanowski scored a try. Byett was then unlucky with the conversion as it hit the upright.
Unfortunately, ’Stoke were unable to build on their score, as after a great break from James Adams. Jamie Collins went over the try line and Wicks missed the extras.
A Byett penalty just before the break kept the home side in touch, as they trailed 17-14 at the turn around.
’Stoke ended the first 40 minutes the better team, but after the interval it was Barnes who were first out of the blocks, as Fergus Jones scored an unconverted try.
The home side then lost Andy Flower to a yellow card and Barnes made the most of the man advantage, as Sharp completed a hat-trick of tries, which Wicks converted for a 29-14 lead.
As the game reached the hour mark, the home side had some good pressure, but it was the visitors who scored again as Pat Crossley went in at the corner and from wide on the touchline Wicks was unable to convert.
’Stoke’s Ryan Davis looked to have made a good break, but his pass back was picked off and with three minutes left in the game. Tom Galvin added another try to the Barnes tally which Wicks converted for a 41-14 lead.
A nice break from Joe Piggot saw him put into touch just before the Barnes try line.
The same home player added another score with a nice run down the right wing, which Byett was unable to convert with the final kick of the match.
So with two games remaining in the league campaign, there is everything to play for as ’Stoke are just a point ahead of Barnes.
Basingstoke have to face two sides in the top four, with a tough trip to Tonbridge Juddian followed by a home game with East Grinstead.
Meanwhile, Barnes entertains fifth placed Guernsey, and then has an away game at ninth placed Westcombe Park.