Buckingham gave their slim promotion hopes a shot in the arm on Saturday when they beat rivals Bletchley 34-22 in a compelling Southern Counties North encounter.
With the Buckingham pack comprising three players that would normally feature in the three quarter line, there were concerns over how they would contend with their much bigger Bletchley counterparts.
For the home side, those concerns were ill-founded as the line-out competition was an equal affair while on several occasions Buckingham looked dominant in the scrum.
The game opened with the ball moving from end-to-end on numerous occasions before Calum Gillie kicked Buckingham into a 3-0 lead.
From the restart, the hosts went on to win a scrum which took them back within striking distance of the Bletchley line, where a fumble at a line-out presented another five-metre scrum from which Toby Smith was driven over.
Joel Coxon was next to break loose as he stormed over the try line, but undaunted by the 13-point deficit, Bletchley worked themselves back into the game with a converted try bringing the score to 13-7.
Buckingham replied when Smith stole a loose ball and galloped over for his second and the home side’s third try.
Gillie’s conversion gave Buckingham a handy 20-7 advantage but again Bletchley responded as the game continued to flow from end-to-end.
They kicked the ball deep up field which saw visitors win a line-out on the Buckingham five meter line and the ensuing catch and drive by the big Bletchley pack took them over.
Buckingham then lapsed further into self-destruct mode and for the next five minutes gave away a series of penalties which eventually resulted in another try as Bletchley got to within just three points at 20-17 at half-time.
The second half started at a somewhat slower pace with Buckingham seemingly intent on giving the game away by conceding penalty after penalty. Making the most of the free ball, Bletchley worked their way into the 22 and within striking distance of the line.
For those watching, it seemed inevitable that Bletchley would secure the line-out and use their muscle to drive over, however that was not to be as the hosts stole the ball.
A stunning line-out from Buckingham, popped down to scrum-half Tom Cook saw him take the ball up the blindside and charge halfway down the pitch to score a vital try.
Gillie added the extras and that was followed by a good break from Smith which brought Buckingham back to within the away side’s 22.
The hosts maintained this territorial advantage for the next 15 minutes, coming close to the Bletchley line on several occasions only to be thwarted by some keen tackling.
Finally, the consistent pressure from Buckingham ended with Tom Cook slipping a loose tackle and scoring his second, with Gillie converting.
With five minutes left and Buckingham down to 14 men, Bletchley scored the final points of the day from rolling maul but it was far too late.
With second-placed Aylesbury losing, Buckingham are now five points adrift of the play-off promotion slot.
Buckingham next face Wallingford a week Saturday.