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'Stoke back on track ahead of Havant showdown
BASINGSTOKE RFC’s quest to keep in touch with the London One South leaders will continue on Saturday (kick-off 3pm), when they travel to Hampshire rivals Havant.
Having suffered an agonising defeat away at Chichester a week earlier, the Down Grange club got their season back on track with an impressive 60-3 victory over Hove on Saturday.
The result left them fifth in the table, nine points behind joint leaders East Grinstead and Chichester – and director of rugby James Croker says they must continue to perform to these high standards in the coming weeks.
“We are back on track and we did it in really good style so it is all good news,” he said. “Now we have to continue playing in the same manner.
“We are just concerned with sustaining that level of performance because we have not managed to do it for two games in a row yet this season.
“I expect a lot of gusto and commitment from Havant and it is always a tough place to go to. The good thing is that our guys have all been there before and a number of them have come away on the winning team.”
Hampshire derbies such as Saturday’s fixture always have added spice in the boardroom and on the touchlines – but Croker says that this rarely spills over onto the field of play.
“The local derby thing is more between the boards and supporters than the players and coaches,” he said. “It does give us extra motivation in that we want to be the top side in the county, but otherwise we just see it as another game we want to win.
“The supporters’ added excitement will build the occasion though and should make for a good game and atmosphere.”
Croker is expecting to welcome captain Neil Young back into the side, while flanker Chris Kiernan and winger Gavin Dampies are also back in contention after missing the Hove game. However, another winger, Gareth Kelly, remains sidelined by injury.
The ’Stoke boss continues to be impressed by fly-half Adam Davies, who made his first start for the club on Saturday and weighed in with an impressive 25-point haul.
“Adam Davies is a terrific player,” Croker enthused. “I could not have expected him to settle in so quickly.
“Jack Parsons played really well at centre as well and I have been really impressed by the relationship Adam already has with Jamie Fish. They seem to have a natural affinity to each other.”
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