S.W.1 EAST: WITNEY 24 BICESTER 13 BY PAUL CHRISP
In an entertaining hard-fought contest, Bicester deservedly turned around 8-5 ahead, before increasing their advantage to 8 points, with their 2nd try 5 minutes into the second half. Witney then stepped up a gear, scoring their 2nd try, 15 minutes later, and with the visitors scrummage now in disarray, they took full advantage of Bicester’s set-piece errors, crossing for 2 converted tries in 12 minutes, to claim a well-earned bonus point victory. Charlie Bethell, who scored both Bicester’s tries, was acclaimed man of the match for an outstanding all-round performance at fly-half, but his side wilted in the second session, as the stronger Witney pack dominated play.
Bicester were in front after only 4 minutes play. Hooker Will Anns combined with centre Dan Spencer, before a penalty was fired into touch on the right, and from flanker Jack Horwood’s line-out catch, scrum half Adam Hall, fed Charlie Bethell, who scampered across to the left of the posts, for an unconverted try. Witney then fluffed a 23 metre kick, but Dan Spencer was successful with a 21 metre penalty kick, following good driving play from a line-out by lock Andrew Faulkner. Six minutes from half-time, a period of Witney pressure ended with their forwards driving strongly from a line out on the right, to put lock Matt Webb across for an unconverted try.
Straightaway after the break, Bicester drilled 2 penalty kicks into touch for line-out possession, from the second of which, Dan Spencer linked with prop Alex Macdonald, whose drive on, paved the way for Charlie Bethell to dummy, before cutting a superb diagonal line to the right of the posts for another unconverted try. Witney cut their deficit to three points after quickly recycling line out possession on the left, across the field to the right, where winger Rhys Morgan scorched over in the corner. Witney were now in the ascendancy, and they led with their third try, 21 minutes from full-time. Bicester were driven off their own scrum ball, and from the ensuing Witney scrum, the ball was transferred across the field out wide, once again, to the right, for full back Arron Lambourne to race across in the corner, with replacement Phil Thomas also adding the conversion points. Finally, as Witney drove off a line-out, they were penalised, but they heeled the resulting Bicester scrum, in the centre of the field, against the head, and no.8 Deg Bayliss galloped 25 metres to the posts for a try, which Thomas again converted.
As a result of this 8th successive defeat, Bicester remain second from bottom, ahead of Marlow by virtue of winning 2 extra matches, but 5 points behind Grove, who also lost 32-28 away at Wimborne.
FIXTURES Sat 13th Jan:
Chippenham v Bicester (away)
Bicester 2nd XV v Beaconsfield 2nd XV (home)
Chipping Norton 2nd XV v Bicester 3rd XV (away)