BASINGSTOKE RFC suffered their first loss in five games in London Three South West, as they lost to new leaders Eastleigh 31-3, but captain Rob Northcote felt their were plenty of positives to take from the game.

Stoke took the lead with an early penalty from James Ephraim and despite Eastleigh being reduced to 14 men after a stamp on hooker Jamie Folan, they were able to run in four tries in their victory.

Northcote said: "The result didn't go our way in terms of the win, but there was so many positives to take from the game despite the loss.

"We prepared well and knew they would be strong in the pack and that they would like to move the ball wide. In training we put a lot of emphasis on defending the breakdown and in and around the ruck.

"We practised defending that channel all week and were very effective. We stopped them on the gain line and nullified a strong element of their game.

He added: "We also competed well in the line out and Jack Rushworth did a great job at the front of the line out and stole more balls than he's done all season.

"The main factor to this was to commit to just getting him up in the air which meant putting pressure on their hooker."

Jon Bird was Stoke's man of the match and Northcote said: "That was rightly so. He was very effective at the breakdown and his fitness and skill level was a cut above. He even had to throw the ball in for the line out when Jamie Folan was off getting taped up. Huge credit to the guy who never stops.

"I mentioned our defence being so much stronger than in recent weeks and we now need to build on that and use this weekend's performance as a benchmark going forwards.

"We matched ourselves against the top of the table for 60 minutes and it just shows how far we've come since last season.

"The attitude of the players is really strong and I enjoy them being able to run out on the pitch and play without any fear.

"It makes it really exciting and we know we can score points because we've proven that since the start of the season. We've set the bar high now for our defence, so we know we're capable."

Stoke are next in action on Saturday December 10 when they face US Portsmouth at home.