Hampshire’s traditional big-hitters, Havant and Basingstoke, renew their rivalry in London south one in an eagerly-awaited local derby at Hooks Lane tomorrow (3pm).
Both clubs harbour ambitions for a return to National League rugby in the future. But for the time being, it is local bragging rights and league points at stake.
After starting the campaign with two wins, Havant have been rocked by three consecutive defeats.
Director of rugby, Rob Matthews, insists his side will have to sort out their defence if they are to put the shackles on free-scoring Basingstoke.
‘Basingstoke have started well and have already posted some big scores,’ said Matthews.
‘We let the game slip away from us late on against Dover last weekend because of some poor defensive work.
‘Earlier in the game, we looked well-organised and a good, solid defensive unit but then we weren’t as cohesive as we should have been.
‘At this level sides will quickly exploit that and quickly make the breakthrough.
‘Dover did just that and it was gut-wrenching.
‘As a team we have to learn to close games out when we are winning.
‘We thought we had turned the corner after coming behind against Trojans and Gosport & Fareham to win our first two games.
‘Last week showed that we still have a bit to learn.’
Havant make a number of changes for tomorrow, with Liam Davenport coming in for the unavailable Alex Tomlinson and Grant Morris likely to move in to the centre.
Dickie Dukes and Ross Parkin also return to the squad.
Outside-half Joel Knight travels back from his university studies in Cardiff to captain the side.
‘There have been some epic matches between the two teams over the years,’ said Matthews.
‘Each have had their spells in the ascendancy and, hopefully, if the conditions are right we should be in for another spectacle.
‘One of the good things about being in this league is the number of local teams involved.
‘It has resurrected a number of derbies that we had been missing whilst we were playing National League rugby.
‘We have beaten Southampton Trojans and Gosport & Fareham so it will be nice to complete the hat-trick by seeing off Basingstoke.
‘If we can repeat what we did in the first three-quarters of the game against Dover last week then we should be very competitive.’
Havant (from): Hart, Read, Morris, Living, Duke, Knight, L Davenport, Elsmore, Austin, Osborne, Parkin, Roberts, Bellman, White, Barfoot, Ward-Golden, Francis