BASINGSTOKE RFC put up a battling performance on the final day of the National League Three London campaign, but their relegation fate was sealed as Barnes won at Westcombe Park 31-30.
The London side drafted in a six London Scottish players, to help them avoid the drop and so ’Stoke will return back to London One after one season in National Three.
If Barnes had lost on the final day of the season, Basingstoke would have escaped the drop if they had won.
However, visiting East Grinstead had other ideas on Saturday and ran out 61-21 winners at Down Grange.
The Sussex side certainly showed why they finished third in the table, with some superb handling skills, which immediately put the home defence on the back foot.
The visitors took just four minutes to open the scoring, as after a good set of phrases James Keyworth went over.
Fly-half Scott Meakin kicked the conversion his first of eight in the match.
Straight from the kick-off, East Grinstead quickly passed the ball through hands and giant second row Max Turnwald crashed over for another score. Meakin kicked the extras.
There was no let up for the home side as the visitors scored a third try within the first nine minutes of the game thanks to Jake Mills, which Meakin converted.
’Stoke then had their first bit of pressure, but when it broke down winger Matt Walsh danced past Will Croker and Matt Guilfoyle on his way to the bonus point try and Meakin added the conversion.
The home side then had an excellent period of play and made it to within five metres of the try line.
A turnover then followed which allowed a quick break, but Tom Richards made the tackle to stop a certain try.
‘’Stoke opened their account on 35 minutes, as Guilfoyle started a break and from a scrum Guy Wilkinson went over and kicked the conversion.
The final play of the first-half saw another East Grinstead try, as James Faaatuah scored in the corner and for the only time in the match Meakin’s kick failed to go over as it hit the posts.
At half-time with Barnes losing at Westcombe, ’Stoke still had a chance, but any hopes of victory were soon dashed as Turnwald fed Kyle Coulter for the first try after the break.
More good pressure from the visitors led to another score from Walsh, as he was found by a nice pass from Colin Dickson and the score moved to 47-7.
However, Dickson was just a spectator on the next major play as ’Stoke’s winger Gavin Dampies flew past him on his way to super solo try.
Ryan Trevaskis who had come on at half-time kicked over the extras.
In a real open encounter and fast flowing rugby East Grinstead replied with two more tries from Keyworth and Karl Gleave to take the score to 61-14.
The final action of the game saw ’Stoke awarded a penalty try, after an infringement at a scrum near the try line. Trevaskis converted for the final scoreline.
’Stoke now have a week off to regroup, ahead of the Hampshire Cup final against old rivals Havant, at Down Grange on Saturday April 26.