Bicester travelled to second placed Slough yesterday eager to see if two weeks of match-specific coaching would be good enough to give some form of parity against what we knew would be a much bigger pack. We must of looked at all the key areas as we turned around 14-7 up and looking good.
We competed in the scrums, secured ball and defended our own rucks properly, and countered with every scrap of loose ball we could find.
We made a few poor decisions and kicked away an overlap or two, and missed targets a couple of times, but still managed to play away from contact and using option runners created huge gaps in a well mastered defence.
Two tries from Tom Horwood, both following a catch and drive dictated by Tim Phipps, and clinically converted from the topuchline by Riz, and we were 14-0 up. Slough weren't expecting this onslaught and didn't know how to deal with Bicesters aggressive rucking and general defence. They did eventually score after a puch through at 12 and pop off to a very useful Fijian back row forward who crashed in under the sticks. That gave them confidence and there then followed a period of intense Slough pressure in the Bicester 22, going through what seemed like 15 phases and a couple of scrums, but the whole team dug deep and dogged it out. When the half-time whistle blew several Slough players were literally on there knees in disbelief they hadn't scored again.
Shortly afetr half-time, again from playing of a punch through, they did cross to level at 14-14. Bicester then produced the mother of all counter attackes from deep in our 22. Dickie Walshe initially fumbled the pick up of a long clearance kick, and ignored my shout to 'get it off the field' stod up the chasers and gassed it infield to link with the retreating Jak at 10. A well measured kick put the ball well done into the corner of the park and a howler from the Slough winger and good pressure from Bicester allowed us to recycle. Another quick phase saw Dom 'Dog-Suit' Southey scamper over in the corner. The conversion was missed but that was 19-14. Good defence of intense pressure in our 22 turned into attack when Dan Spencer read the off-load and raced ( well, more sauntered really as I over-took him on the touch-line whilst writing notes) 70m to dot down behind the posts. The kick made it 26-14 and we really though we had a win in front of us. From then on, Slough really upped their game, and their 9 and 10 started to boss things, and a blind-side break from a scrum on the 22 was turned into 5 points. They then started to make good use of the Fijian and he get them going forward and some good off-loading put us on the back foot and camped well in our 22. A couple of tries followed, one created by the lively and very pacey fly-half, linking well with support runners, and another where tiredness showed leading to poor tackle technique and a try under the posts.
In the end, Slough shaded it and showed why they are looking like Champions (no Dan Horwood, that isn't French for mushrooms). Not many sides would come back from the battering they got in the first 35 minutes and win. The last kick of the game saw a conversion hit the up-right to retain Bicesters losing bonus point, and with four tries scored, gave us two bonus points for a hard days work. Slough were adamant that we had given them easily the hardest test they've had this season - I don't think their opposition came away with two league points last week........
This was an immense performance, all the more so for being pre-Xmas in a developemnt season, and everyone of the squad can be rightfully very proud of themselves. This was easliy the best rugby we have played this season, including the winning performances, so things are starting to click into place. So long as the committee have faith in what we are trying to achieve, and some Old Boys come and support our home games, we can move the club forward again.