Chipping Norton 15
Bicester staged a truly gutsy performance against a strong Chipping Norton side, who earned an away victory against league leaders Thatcham just before Christmas.
Both teams scored two first half tries, but a Dan Spencer penalty goal was the only score of the second half. Spencer moved to centre alongside his brother Adam early in the second half after Dave Hampton retired with a minor facial injury.
Debutant Chris Clayton joined the back row alongside Jack Horwood and Adam Willmore.
Fifteen minutes from full-time, lock Mark Malins, who had enjoyed an outstanding game in the loose play, was sinbinned for deliberate obstruction.
Despite these handicaps, Bicester battled bravely right to the end and might so easily have won the four victory points instead of just one bonus point.
Bicester were in front after eight minutes as Dan Spencer drove off a line-out. Bicester were turned over, but lock Tim Phipps safely gathered the Chipping Norton clearance kick which followed and quick handling by Dave Aslett in the centre enabled Dave Hampton to release winger Dickie Walsh, who outpaced the cover defence to cross wide out on the left.
Straightaway Chipping retorted with a combination of slick handling and good support play down the left and winger Kieran Phillps-Tebb fed no 8 Matt Dawson who put blindside flanker Andy Chapman across for a try which centre Barry Nutt also converted.
A tremendous break by full-back Jak Cluness almost engineered a try for Aslett before Bicester scored again. A Chipping Norton knock-on presented Bicester with a scrum on the left from which Dan Spencer plunged across for an unconverted try.
Chipping replied with a Barry Nutt penalty goal from the 22 metre line five minutes later and on the stroke of half time they regained the lead when a penalty was fired into the right hand corner and from the line-out fly-half Adam Smith was driven across.
Early in the second session following some strong running from Jack Horwood and Dan Spencer, Bicester were awarded a penalty which Spencer slotted over from 35 metres.
Bicester now prepare for the visit of Stow-on-the-Wold this Saturday, whose 45-5 victory over Swindon College OB ensures Tim Phipps’ side remain in fourth place at least for another week.
>>Bicester 2nds beat Maidenhead 4ths 18-8. Bicester try scorers were Matt Duncalf, Granville Williams. James Blake converted a try and scored two penalties.
>>Bicester 2nds visit Grove 2nds, while Bicester 3rds travel to Bracknell 4ths.
>>Bicester Colts host Newbury Colts this Sunday, 2pm kick-off.
>>Brackley 1sts overcame fellow relegation candidates Bedford Swifts 12-10 by the skin of their teeth on Saturday to record their third victory of the season and lift themselves from the bottom of the table to 10th in the league.
With a game in hand, Brackley could potentially advance still further during the next two weeks, though they’ll have to sharpen their act if they’re to do so.
Brackley’s try scorers were outside centre Mario Vaise after 12 minutes and second row Mark Herlihy, while flanker Paul Rowling and Sam Richbell went over for Swifts.