Basingstoke RFC returned to winning ways with a bonus point victory over fellow highflyers US Portsmouth on an afternoon that even a yeti would have thought twice about going outside in.

There was plenty of festive cheer in the air as well as a cold chill on Saturday afternoon at Down Grange as ‘Stoke moved back up the table with a 26-15 win over US Portsmouth thanks to four first half tries spread across both the forward pack and the back line.

Two of those came within the first 15 minutes and after a slow start the home side soon found their grove with a dominant forward pack turning over ball at will when it came to scrum time.

Brad Titcombe got the scoreboard ticking after Paddy Gilbert made a sizeable gap in the US Portsmouth defence with a rampaging run forward, eventually stopped, quick distribution from Tom O’Driscoll saw the ball find its way to the wing and Titcombe dived over to get ‘Stoke off to the perfect start.

This was soon followed by a second as Ethan Bushnell got in on the act after ‘Stoke forced a turnover from the visitors’ scrum allowing Jake Jagged to saunter his way downfield and step his way through the fractured back line of the visitors passing to Bushnell to dot down under the posts.

Alfie Rowley on kicking duties was safely able to add the extras.  

More tries followed before the break securing the bonus point inside the half hour mark.

Nathaniel Siddall got his first try for ‘Stoke as again errors from the visitors allowed the home side to use their dynamic backline to break through the holes left after an unsuccessful kick to touch from US Portsmouth.

Brad Titcombe and Ethan Bushnell combining to set up Siddall who saw the defence parting like the red sea to allow him to canter in besides the posts to give ‘Stoke a 19-0 advantage after 25 minutes after Adam Warner successfully took over kicking duties.

Cam Prayag secured the bonus point for ‘Stoke shortly after as the home sides’ pack shoved their way up field and again quick thinking from Tom O’Driscoll saw him and Sean McDermott combine to set up a huge gap for Prayag to dance through and dotting down under the posts, with a successful conversion giving the hosts a more than deserved 26-0 advantage.

US Portsmouth got themselves on the scoreboard at the end of the half with a penalty kick giving them something to work with in the second half.

The second half was much more of a scrappy affair with ‘Stoke doing most of the defending as the visitors began to keep much more of the ball and play in the right territory.

US Portsmouth hit back with 2 tries of their own, ‘Stoke taking their foot off the gas allowing the visitors a potential way back into the game. An early penalty conceded inside their own 22’ saw the hosts concede just after the restart and they were caught out again shortly after as gaps began to appear in the ‘Stoke back line, swiftly exploited by the visitors.

Despite the gap being narrowed to 11 points the home side began to find their rhythm and reclaimed control of the game allowing them to see out another win on home turf.

A seventh win of the season sees ‘Stoke move back up to third with a game in hand and just five points off table toppers Sandown and Shanklin. Winchester 2s next up for ‘Stoke with just two games left before the festive break.

The Dragons were also in action on Saturday as they welcomed Millbrook 2s to Down Grange. Unfortunately, they were narrowly denied a draw in the dying moments succumbing 31-24.

Basingstoke RFC 26-15 US Portsmouth

Tries- Brad Titcombe, Ethan Bushnell, Nathaniel Siddall, Cam Prayag

Conversions- Alfie Rowley, Adam Warner x2