BASINGSTOKE RFC started the new season at home in front of a crowd looking forward to seeing them continue the fine form of last season, writes David Greenaway.

With the sun out it was perfect weather conditions for some running rugby and Stoke started the game well with the home side building ascendancy earlier on until a mistake gifted Portsmouth territory and lead to them being able to capitalise and score the first try of the match. It didn’t take Basingstoke long to get back into the game with Simon Appleby scoring their first try six mins later, which was converted by Kurtis Eagle.

Basingstoke continued to play well, with home side demonstrating a strong set piece, with the help of new players John Williams and Miloe Williamson, allowing them to build momentum. A penalty kick by Kurtis Eagle gave Stoke 10-5 lead at half time.

Stoke continued where they left off in the first half and extended their lead with a try from Matt Buckingham, again converted by Eagle. Portsmouth soon hit back with a converted score of their own to reduce Basingstoke’s lead. Basingstoke then upped the pace with 2 unconverted tries soon following giving them a 15-point lead and plenty for the crowd to get excited about and the thought of continuing last season’s winning ways. Portsmouth, nevertheless, are a strong side who finished 3rd in the league last season and used that experience to pull themselves back into the match to bring the score to 27-19. Stoke tried to keep the score board ticking over by kicking another 3 points with a penalty from Eagle, but Portsmouth were able to expose some of the lack of experience in the Basingstoke team, who couldn’t get the final score to kill Pompey off, and continued to build pressure. From the passion and territory, the away side managed to score a converted try to bring the score to 30-26, their momentum continued and saw them score the final try of the match and get the win 30-31.

Despite the loss the home side need to take the positives from the match, the last time these 2 sides meet at Down Grange Portsmouth won by 63 points, this time they lost by only 1 point in a match they should have won. The 2 bonus points gets them points on the board and the platform to learn and grow, next up for Stoke Effingham and Leatherhead away.

The Dragons also kicked off their season at home playing Havant III. The away side started the strongest getting the first try of the match, but the Dragons soon got over the whitewash as they upped the tempo and didn’t look back from there on. With the great weather it meant the conditions were perfect for running rugby, the Dragons had a strong back line and ensured they played the game at a fast pace and utilised the speed they had out wide. Man of the match was Carl Hayward, but there were strong performances all across the park as they recorded a 46-17. The only downside was losing Tom O’Driscoll to a broken collar bone early on, we wish him a quick recovery. The Dragons next game is at home to Andover II.