BICESTER 1st XV set aside their recent defensive failings to stage a gutsy fightback as they came from behind right at the death to earn a dramatic 31-29 victory against Hungerford in an exciting, closely-fought contest.
Playing uphill in the first half, they led 24-14 at half time but Hungerford gained the upper hand in the second half, leading 29-24, until hooker Jake Holdsworth’s try five minutes from the final whistle was brilliantly converted by scrum half Michael Harris.
Bicester went ahead after 10 minutes when, following a driven line-out, centre Stuart James sent Matthew Duncalf scampering across wide out on the left.
Hungerford counter-attacked immediately down the left side with winger Benjamin Shand crossing for a try, converted by Mark Boulton.
That try was shortly followed by a second for the visitors – Chris Woodruff crossing.
Bicester retorted with some strong driving play by Tom Horwood before a powerful surge from a line-out by number 8 Pete Corker sent Dave Ahu-Gooch crashing over to the left of the posts, giving Tom Bass a relatively simple conversion.
Minutes before half time, Bicester regained the lead when Stuart James broke down the right and Harris jinked his way past several defenders for a try that Ryan Biscoe converted and that was quickly followed by another Bicester score.
The hosts won another Hungerford scrum against the head and right wing Jason Smith combined with Biscoe to put in full-back Dave Aslett across for the try.
Having appeared in control at the break, Bicester crumbled early in the second half as Hungerford put the home defence under pressure it told with a try from Shand.
Midway through the period, the visitors levelled the scores thanks to a try from Woodruff before they went ahead when Dominic Taylor intercepted a loose Bicester pass and sprinted 70-metres to the posts.
But Bicester showed tremendous character to fightback and a multi-phase move resulted in Aslett and Horwood recycling a quick penalty to Hoildsworth, who cut a diagonal line for a try which brought the scores level.
The pressure then fell onto the shoulders of Harris as he lined up the conversion from near the touchline but he held his nerve superbly as he bisected the posts to clinch victory.
On Sunday, Bicester turn their attention to the cup when they host Blue Boar in the Oxon County Shield at 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, Bicester’s second team were beaten 26-10 by Witney despite Ganville Williams’ try.