A virtuoso kicking performance by centre Tom Miles enabled Bicester to grind out a 29-15 victory in this hard-fought game against Thatcham at Oxford Road.
Just four tries were scored, two in each half, as both teams defended resolutely throughout, but Man of the Match Miles was successful with five out of his six penalty attempts, and converted both Bicester tries for a total of 19 points.
Francois Weise, winger Pete Tarrega and centre Lemeki Valevou all landed spectacular big hits, Bicester conceded twice as many penalties as the visitors, however they did enough to ensure they started the season with back-to-back wins, catapulting them to second in the Southern Counties North.
After just two minutes, strong running by centre Valevou presented Miles with a penalty attempt, but for the first and last time he shot wide.
Thatcham then attacked down the left side, securing line-out possession from the two penalty awards, flanker Ash Taylor drove across for an unconverted try.
Moments late, Weise’s initial break from a scrum was continued by prop George Withers and hooker Will Anns in the centre, until fly-half Dave Hampton’s long pass out wide to the left sent winger Peter Tarrega racing 30 metres to the try line.
Miles converted, and straightaway he slotted over a 40 metre kick on the right, following good play by lock Ryan Gallacher and scrum half Christian Mann.
Midway through the first session, Thatcham’s Callum Stewart replied with a penalty, but Bicester quickly extended their two-point lead when flanker Jack Horwood combined with Mann and Hampton to spread the ball across the field to full-back George Upton on the right.
The visitors infringed, and Miles banged over the kick from 18 metres.
Miles was then off target with a speculative long range drop goal attempt, but he very quickly made amends with another successful penalty from the 22 metre line 13 minutes before half-time.
Miles was soon in the action again after the break when a quick burst from Dan Spencer wrong-footed the visitors’ defence and he slotted home a 21 metre kick.
Ten minutes later, Stewart was unsuccessful with a kick for Thatcham from the same distance, and the visitors were then held up by superb Bicester defence on the latter’s try line.
Thatcham were also penalised at a scrum, and from Valevou’s powerful thrust through the centre, Hampton jinked past several would be tacklers on his 30 metre sprint down the left side to the try line.
Miles added the extras to give Bicester a comfortable 26-8 lead, but Thatcham stormed right back kicking a penalty long and deep to touch on the left, and from the line out Ash Taylor was driven across for his second try.
This time fly-half Dan Shaunessy added the conversion points, but Bicester were not yet finished, and right at the end, after Miles sent Hampton on another sweeping move to the left, Thatcham again transgressed and Miles made no mistake with another kick from the 22 line.
Bicester visit Aylesbury this weekend.