IN PICTURES: Bicester pip Buckingham in thriller

Bicester's Tom Miles gets his backs moving (pictures by Jake McNulty)
Bicester's Tom Miles gets his backs moving (pictures by Jake McNulty)
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Bicester pipped Buckingham by a single point, winning 20-19, in a thrilling Southern Counties North clash.

Both Bicester and Buckingham deserve a lot of credit for entertaining the large crowd with some high-quality rugby in adverse wet and windy conditions.

In an evenly contested game, the two defences were generally in control, though Bicester did have the edge in the collisions where some of the tackling was of the highest order.

Bicester scrum-half Michael Harris was once again the perfect midfield general, and he was well supported by fly-half Tom Miles, but the main architects of the home side’s success were the front row trio of Tom Horwood, Will Anns and Alex Macdonald.

Macdonald was nominated man of the match while Anns, in the first half, and Horwood in the second, both scored tries.

Buckingham took the game straight to Bicester, winning two penalties, from the second of which the ball was fired into touch on the left and from the line-out, slick cross-field handling created an overlap on the right for right-wing Matt Hawker to cross in the corner.

In reply, Bicester’s Miles kicked long and deep to the right side, and as full-back George Upton staged a stunning tackle, Buckingham infringed, and Miles slotted over the penalty.

Wing Christian Mann then collected a high ball before Miles kicked long and deep, once again on the right, and a good quick ball by Bicester at the line-out enabled hooker Anns to streak across for a try which Miles also converted.

Miles struck a post with a 20 metre penalty kick, and three minutes from half-time, after Bicester flanker Ryan Biscoe was sin-binned, a Buckingham scrum, which had to be reset twice, resulted in flanker Pat Ockenden driving across to the left of the posts. Scrum-half Calum Gillie converted.

Straight from the restart, as Bicester worked the ball in the centre close to their 22 line, former Bicester fly-half and now Buckingham centre Jak Cluness intercepted brilliantly before bolting to the line for a try, which Gillie easily converted, to give the visitors a nine-point lead.

The home side would not buckle, though, as they fought back when winning a Buckingham scrum against the head, before stringing together 14 phases, including two scrums, three penalties and two line-outs, as the ball was transferred from left to right, then into the centre and finally back to the left for the final pass, which sent Miles careering across for a superb try.

Ten minutes later, Miles drilled a penalty into touch from the 10 metre line on the left and as the Bicester forwards drove strongly off the line-out, a scrum was awarded, from which flanker jack Horwood set up a tremendous maul until loose-head prop Tom Horwood was driven across.

Bicester, now one point ahead, had to withstand 10 minutes of intense Buckingham pressure, before the visitors were penalised at an attacking line-out on the right, for an illegal tackle and Bicester joyfully hoofed into touch to the sound of the final whistle.

Elsewhere, Dave Ahu-gooch, Dave Aslett, Pauliasi Sema and Joey Sibuun all scored for Bicester IIs in their win over Reading, but the IIIs were heavily beaten 29-10 by Buckingham IIIs.

This weekend, Bicester are at Wallingford the a rearranged fixture after the earlier game was abandoned.