Bicester hopes ended by champions Reading

Mike Harris
Mike Harris

If Bicester harboured any hopes of sneaking into the Southern Counties North promotion play-off spot this season, they are surely now over after Saturday’s defeat to Reading Abbey, whose 39-17 victory sees them clinch the title and therefore promotion.

Abbey, whose electric backs displayed both blistering pace and outstanding handling skills, achieved almost total domination of territory and possession in the first half, turning round 22-3 ahead.

Bicester however refused to lie down, and play was more evenly contested after the break despite a fourth Abbey try, and the spirited Bicester recovery was rewarded with two second half scores.

Fly-half Dave Hampton was named man of the match for his tireless efforts to galvanise a fightback, whilst the visitors’ pack again impressed in the scrums and line-outs.

Abbey centre Tom Waterhouse struck the left upright with a penalty attempt on five minutes but three minutes later, following a line-out, a lightning burst by Gavin Dampese ended with Will Woodward crossing in the corner.

Moments later Tom Miles was only just off target with a penalty, but Abbey soon struck again when, from some excellent handling and support play Gavin Dampese scorched over for a try, which Waterhouse also converted.

Good work up the centre by Dave Hampton then earned Bicester a penalty, which Miles slotted over from 25 metres, however Dylan Baptista then evaded the clutches of three Bicester defenders and fly-half Steven Drake stretched across for his first try.

Waterhouse added the extras, and straightaway banged over a penalty to give the hosts a 19-point going into the break.

Ten minutes into the second half, a superb Crossfield handling move to the right by Abbey was transferred back to the left, where prop Tim Brain plunged across in the corner.

Bicester then bounced back as Tom Horwood caught a loose ball cleanly before linking with flanker Matt Dye, whose outside pass sent winger George Upton on a 40 metre sprint to the try line.

Miles converted from 22 metres but Baptista and then Steve Drake both scored for Abbey to effectively end the game as a contest despite a spirited Bicester finish.

The last five minutes belong to the visitors. First, full-back Dickie Walsh went close after good play by Hampton, Francois Weise and Mike Harris, then hooker Will Anns drove powerfully off a scrum on the left side.

He was halted short of the line, but Harris was on hand to dummy across for a try, and Miles added the extras.

Elsewhere, Bicester IIs beat Wallingford IIs 21-8 but the IIIs lost 39-19 to Gosford All Blacks.