Bicester staged another gutsy performance to finish their season with an excellent 25-20 victory over Royal Wootton Bassett in a pulsating, end-to-end contest, played at a blistering pace in front of over 300 supporters.
As a result of this superb bonus-point victory, Bicester ended their Southern Counties North campaign in fifth place, on the same number of points as fourth-placed Stow, but with a vastly inferior points difference.
The Bicester cover defence was magnificent, especially out wide on the flanks, where the slick visiting backs were a constant threat, while the front five were rock solid with skipper Matt Dye named Man of the Match in a top class team performance.
After taking an early 12-0 lead, Bicester fell behind 14-12 midway through the first half before retaking the lead 17-14 with a try by Dan Spencer, 12 minutes from half-time. The scoreline was 20-20 heading into the closing stages, but the deadlock was soon broken when replacement Dickie Walsh crossed for the match-winning try.
Playing uphill and against the wind, Bicester took the game straight to Wootton Bassett, driving off stolen line-out ball on the left before a penalty was fired into touch and quick ball from the ensuing line-out was transferred into the centre, where full-back Andrew Cook sent winger Dave Aslett hurtling across on the right.
Five minutes later, Bicester increased their advantage to 12 points. Following another Wootton Bassett line-out the left, Bicester again won a turnover and from Tom Miles’ well-judged kick towards the left touchline, they again recycled quick line-out ball into the centre for fly-half Miles to put winger Peter Tarrega under the posts, for a try which Miles also converted.
The visitors hit back, however, with Joe Petit crossing for a try that Hogg converted before Hamish Forbes-Keith scorched over in the corner.
Hogg again added the extras to put his side ahead for the first time, but Bicester bounced straight back, shunting the visitors off their scrum and as centre Francois Wiese broke sharply up the right from the subsequent Bicester scrum, the ball was shipped across the field to the left side for Spencer to cut inside before storming across to the left of the posts to put Bicester 17-14 ahead at half-time.
Ten minutes into the second half, the visitors pulled level at 17-17 thanks to Hogg’s penalty before Miles slotted over an excellent three points of his own, only for Hogg hit straight back in what was becoming a compelling, topsy-turvy contest.
With the scores level at 20-20, the game could have gone either way and when Wootton Bassett again infringed at a scrum, Bicester took a quickly-taken penalty as scrum half Mike Harris offloaded to centre Wiese, before a ruck was formed, from which Miles’ long flat pass sent replacement winger Walsh careering over on the right for an unconverted try.
The visitors then laid siege to the Bicester 22 metre area, but a vital turnover ensured the home line remained intact and a memorable victory had been achieved.