Buckingham Rugby Club produced a gritty and determined display at Witney on Saturday to avoid relegation and preserve their level six status despite a 31-29 defeat.
Buckingham, who were promoted into South West One East last season, finished their season an impressive 10th.
On a sunny afternoon, both sides set out to play attacking rugby in a game enjoyed by a large crowd and it was the home side who took an early lead after ten minutes when Buckingham were caught offside.
Andy White’s penalty brought Buckingham level, but Witney immediately ran the ball back after the restart and the visitors needlessly transgressed to give their hosts another three points, before they stepped up the pressure to break through the visiting defence for the first try.
Back came Buckingham with a break by Andrew Jackson and from a scrum, the ball was moved smoothly across the backs for James Hulston to score in the corner, with White’s excellent conversion bringing Buckingham to within one at 11-10 at the interval.
Witney found their groove in the second half as a sweeping move caught Buckingham offside before two tries in quick succession left Buckingham reeling as they trailed 26-10 and relegation was beckoning.
However, the Buckingham pack, who have been a revelation this season, took the game by the scruff of the neck and battered the Witney line until Matt Payne crashed over and White added the extras.
Witney again increased their lead but, as the tension mounted, Buckingham displayed tremendous resolve in the final 10 minutes as they threw everything into a final onslaught and from a scrum on the home 22, Calum Gillie scorched over, White again on target to close the gap to 31-24.
It was now all Buckingham with Witney pushed further and further back and from yet another successful scrum, Tom Amos broke and fed James Bernard, who powered through the centre to score the fourth try and a welcome bonus-point.
To the dismay of the away support, White’s conversion hit the upright and the final whistle brought an absorbing afternoon to a close with Witney winning by two, but Buckingham’s two bonus-points, combined with results elsewhere, confirmed their safety and kick-started the celebrations.