Defeat to leaders Marlow leaves Bicester in a battle for second place

Try-scorer Christian Mann. Picture: Jake McNulty
Try-scorer Christian Mann. Picture: Jake McNulty

Bicester’s season all boils down to their final two games as they aim to finish second and earn themselves a shot at promotion following last week’s defeat 31-13 defeat to leaders Marlow.

On a five-match winning streak, Bicester went into the game hoping to cause an upset and perhaps challenge Marlow for the Southern Counties North title but the defeat dashes those hopes and leaves them only five points clear of third-placed Aylesbury.

Bicester made an encouraging start to this top-of-the-table clash, turning round 13-3 ahead, but with slope in their favour, Marlow upped the tempo in the second-half as a combination of clinical finishing and the home side’s poor ball retention enabled the visitors to claim a decisive victory.

Bicester must now win both their last two games in order to qualify for the play-off match on April 29, starting at Milton Keynes this weekend.

Marlow’s Nicholas Carvey fluffed two early penalty kicks, before Bicester went ahead on 16 minutes when Tom Miles didn’t make the same mistake.

A second three-pointer from Miles extended the home side’s advantage and after Carvey responded for Marlow, Bicester ensured they held sway at half-time when Dave Hampton sent Miles careering at pace through the middle for scrum-half Christian Mann to cross on the left of the posts.

Miles converted, and on the stroke of half-time, Marlow lost prop George Dean to a yellow card.

At this point Bicester were well in contention but within five minutes of the restart Marlow reduced the arrears to three points through Carvey’s converted try, and it wasn’t long before they were ahead.

Hampton’s clearing kick was charged down, allowing Ian Thompson to scamper over, and Marlow kept coming at Bicester thereafter with Dominic Crayden next to score.

Carvey converted both this and his side’s fourth try at the end when winger Matt Saunders rubbed salt into the Bicester wounds by sprinting over from 40 metres out.

Bicester must now focus on securing second place as they head to second-bottom MK on Saturday.

Elsewhere, there was a hat-trick for Matt Duncalf as Bicester IIIs thrashed Reading Abbey 43-5.