Report and pictures: Bicester steal a march on rivals Buckingham in promotion tussle

Phil Wright goes over for Buckingham. Pictures: Jake McNulty
Phil Wright goes over for Buckingham. Pictures: Jake McNulty

Bicester have put themselves in pole position in the race for the Southern Counties North promotion play-off place after beating local rivals and fellow high-flyers Buckingham 23-11.

In an enthralling contest, Bicester’s well-drilled defence restricted Buckingham to just one try, a drop goal and a penalty 12 minutes into the second-half when they were 11-10 in arrears.

But once the visitors were back to full strength after two yellow cards, their forwards dominated the set-pieces and the loose while the backs, led by man of the match Tom Miles and Charlie Bethell, entertained the large crowd with some glorious passing moves.

This led to two penalties and a converted try, securing a well-deserved victory that keeps them second in the table and on course for the promotion play-off spot ahead of a home game against Gosford All Blacks this weekend.

Buckingham, meanwhile, remain fourth and all hope of promotion this season looks lost unless they can win all five of their remaining games, starting against bottom side Bletchley on Saturday.

It was Buckingham who dominated the early exchanges against Bicester, and they were first to get on the scoreboard when Phil Wright scampered over in the corner.

But after fly-half Ed Kinman extended the home side’s lead to eight with a drop goal, the visitors came fighting back through Bethell, who was sent hurtling over the whitewash for a try by Peter Tarrega.

Tom Miles converted and his penalty four minutes later following a superb handling move edged Bicester into a 10-8 lead at half-time.

After the break, Bicester centre Naleca was yellow carded, and despite thumping tackles near the posts by Weise and Miles, the visitors conceded a penalty which Kinman easily banged over to swing the pendulum back the home side’s way.

Things looked even more bleak for Bicester when Wes Westaway was also shown a yellow card, reducing them to 13 men, however they survived the handicap, before launching a brilliant fightback to comfortably win the game.

It all began when Weise stole a Buckingham line-out and Tarrega initiated a break before Bethell and Miles combined on the left to send Tevita Naleca scorching away for a try that Miles also converted.

Bicester were well and truly in the driving seat now and when Buckingham were shunted backwards off their own scrum ball, the visitors lead was extended to nine as Miles knocked over a penalty.

And victory was assured just a few moments later thanks again to the boot of Miles who made no mistake after Buckingham infringed.