James Grosvenor scored a last-minute try as Bicester began the new year with a fourth successive league win against a resolute Wallingford side in the Southern Counties North.
While the forward exchanges were fairly evenly contested, the Bicester backs engineered all four tries to set up another bonus-point victory.
Playing downhill in the first half, Bicester turned around nine points ahead but a converted try five minutes after the break followed by a penalty 13 minutes later gave the visitors a 22-21 advantage before fly half Grosvenor stretched under the posts for the home team’s winning try.
The result, which was their fourth win in the last five matches, propels Bicester into outside contenders for promotion having only just been promoted into the Southern Counties North last season. They are now sixth in the table, just seven points behind leaders Stow-on-the-Wold.
On Saturday, the hosts went ahead with a well-worked try after just three minutes. From a line-out on the right, a sweeping move saw the ball transferred to the left, where a superb drive by prop Will Butler set up a ruck from which Dan Spencer shimmied past two defenders to cross.
Spencer added the conversion before the visitors replied nine minutes later when an overlap was created for Ralph Smith to put Pete McKinley in for an unconverted score.
Bicester quickly bounced back when a break down the right by winger Matt Duncall resulted in Wallingford’s line-out ball being stolen and from the Bicester penalty that ensued, scrum half Mike Harris sent lock Matt Dye plunging across in the corner for a try which Spencer brilliantly converted from the touch line.
In what was becoming a to-and-fro first half, Wallingford counter-attacked immediately and reduced the gap through Dan Sadler’s converted try, but Bicester wasted no time in replying as Mike Harris sent Dave Hampton on a storming run to the posts.
Spencer once again slotted over the extras to put Bicester 21-12 ahead at half-time.
Early in the second half, slick inter-passing by the lively visiting backs resulted in Smith putting McKinley across for his second try, which was converted by Paul Dawes, who then kicked a penalty to put Wallingford ahead for the first time in the match.
Bicester sought a quick response but, after Spencer and Henry Zaluzny were sin-binned, Andy Cook was just off target with a penalty attempt to keep the hosts behind heading into the dying minutes.
It was Bicester who had the final say, however, as Grosvenor surged past several defenders to stretch across to the right of the posts for a late try that snatched a 26-22 victory.
This weekend, Bicester travel to local rivals Alchester, who are bottom of the table with just one win all season.