A heroic team performance almost saw Bicester pull off a major shock when they took on Southern Counties North leaders High Wycombe in an absorbing clash at the weekend.
The home side have lost only three times all season but a superb effort by the Bicester forwards restricted the renowned High Wycombe driving maul to just two tries, while Man of the Match Tom Miles scored all of the visitors’ points as Bicester led 17-16 with only 10 minutes remaining before home centre Harry Tanner spared his side’s blushes.
Bicester were also outstanding in defence as Wycombe dominated first half possession, with fly-half Joseph Openshaw signaling his side’s intentions early on by slotting over a 25-metre penalty inside 10 minutes.
Miles was then off target with a drop goal and a period of intense pressure from the Wycombe pack ensued, until a penalty was drilled into touch on the right and from the driven line-out, lock
Peter Partis stretched over for a try 11 minutes from half-time.
The visitors had their chances to hit back as superb driving play by Francois Weise almost produced a try for prop Tom Horwood before Miles missed two penalty attempts as the hosts maintained their 8-0 lead through to half-time.
The deficit was reduced three minutes into the second half, however, when following some neat handling by the their backs, Bicester were awarded a penalty and as Wiese and Dan Spencer drove powerfully up the middle, Miles embarked on a swerving 30-metre run to the posts for a try which he also converted.
Now in the ascendency, Bicester continued to pose problems for the league leaders and more strong driving by the forwards earned their side another penalty. Miles kicked to touch and from the line-out, the ball was transferred into the centre where lock Tim Farrow sent Miles hurtling across the line for another converted try.
However Wycombe, looking to save themselves from a shock defeat, bounce back immediately when they too drove off a line-out to put Henry Wyse over in the corner before a penalty from Openshaw saw the home side regain the lead.
But they quickly lost their two-point advantage when an infringement allowed Miles to land a massive 42-metre penalty to put the visitors back ahead in this to-and-fro encounter, leading 17-16 heading into the final 12 minutes.
There was to be no fairytale ending, though, as almost immediately, a tantalising high ball down the left flank by Wycombe wrong-footed the Bicester defence and centre Harry Tanner picked up before touching down behind the posts.
Openshaw added the extras with a 15-metre kick and Bicester had to be content with a losing bonus-point. As a consequence, Bicester remain in sixth place, one point ahead of Marlow, whom they entertain next on the March 21.
Elsewhere, in BBO Division Three, two tries from Dave Ahu-Gooch inspired Bicester IIs to a 37-0 victory over Gosford All Blacks IIs.