BASINGSTOKE RFC made it to back to back Hampshire Vase finals as they survived a second half fightback by Fordingbridge to claim a 35-29 victory to seal a Home final against Petersfield scheduled for April 25, writes CHRIS PRITCHARD

A first half hat-trick for Simon Appleby and two second half tries from Matt Mairs and Rhyan Harmon helped seal the win on an entertaining afternoon in the New Forest.

The afternoon started well for Stoke as despite a couple of handling errors, a stolen line out saw a 30 metre drive from the forwards eventually set up a scrum in front of the Fordingbridge posts after a number of penalties were given away by the home side.

The home side were reduced to 14 men after stopping the Stoke attack illegally though they soon took advantage as from the scrum Simon Appleby used the visitors scrum dominance to fall over the line and give Stoke an early lead with his first of three tries.

With the conversion by Kurtis Eagle successful the visitors opened up a 7-0 lead.

Again the forward pack were showing dominance and despite an errant kick from Kurtis Eagle, Stoke were able to turn over the resulting scrum and despite some good defence by Fordingbridge Appleby was able to burst through a gap and increase Stoke’s lead.

The home side soon got themselves on the scoreboard with a penalty, given away by Stoke at the breakdown, though this was cancelled out as Appleby was soon able claim his hat-trick.

Again an error from the home side, with a mis kick ending up behind the posts and allowed Stoke another opportunity to use their pack to gain reward.

With an advantage the visitors were able get the ball out to the backs where Adam Clayson was stopped just short.

The new scrum though saw Stoke move forward at a rate and Appleby again able to peel off the back and grab the hat trick shortly before the interval.

With Kurtis Eagle’s boot seemingly in working order this week, his third kick in a row successful to gave Stoke a 21-3 lead.

They almost had a fourth try right on half time after a break from their own 22 and some great offloads among the backs saw Adam Clayson hammered into touch just short of the try line with some great last ditch tackling by the Fordingbridge back line.

At half time Stoke went to the sheds with a healthy lead.

The second half could not have been more different if you had have tried to write a script for it.

Despite the visitors starting well, the great work in the first half was very quickly all undone. First a missed touch kick saw Fordingbridge away down the wing, though some great tackling from Harry Leonard and Matt Mairs briefly held the hosts at bay, and but for a forward pass would have scored sooner.

A free kick from the resulting scrum saw the Fordingbridge No. 8, go quick and catch the visitors out to go under the posts and score their opening try of the game.

The home side quickly added to their tally straight from the kick off. Missed tackles costing Stoke and Fordingbridge were under the posts again to reduce the gap to just four with the successful conversion.

With the home side's tails certainly now wagging it looked as though a Stoke response was to be instant, with Adam Clayson breaking through a gaping hole left by the home side and the try line in sight, another great piece of defending by Fordingbridge stopped him just inside the hosts 22.

The defence rewarded with an intercept try, as despite George Hemmings recycling the ball at speed, a loose pass was well read by the home side and it was they who now took the lead for the first time in the match.

A successful conversion meant they led 24-21 with 20 minutes still to play.

With the match now as open as it had been all afternoon, their was plenty of running rugby on show, and it was now Stoke who began to respond as Sam Turner looked almost certain to score, but again the home side were determined to hold their lead.

Soon though the visitors were able to regain their lead as Fordingbridge were unable to gather their line-out cleanly and hacked the ball out of the danger zone allowing Stoke to break through the space left and after some neat offloads from both Dave Lambert and Harry Leonard, Matt Mairs was able to step through a gap and score the visitors fourth try and importantly retake the advantage.

With Adam Clayson now on kicking duties for the injured Kurtis Eagle was able to add the extras and Stoke led 28-24.

Rhyan Harmon was soon able to increase the Stoke lead further after a great solo break from another loose line-out on the Fordingbridge 22, though he will probably say it was 50 metres and he beat the whole back line.

With minimal time left on the clock it was the hosts inevitably who were next to score in this end to end second half, with more loose ball and a failed clearance by George Hemmings, Fordingbridge were able to again go across their back line and score in the corner. Crucially though the conversion was missed meaning only a converted try could win it in the last two minutes for the home side. Despite a final push by the hosts, Stoke did what they had to, and held on to claim victory on an entertaining afternoon and earn their place in another Hampshire Vase final which will be on home turf.

The Rugby Football Union have now suspended all rugby due to Covid-19.