Henley had conceded 5 penalties and Bicester 3 within the first 6 minutes of play and the referee had had enough. He spoke to both captains about the contact area and asked both to tell their players to stop trying to referee the game. Having had the talking to, Bicester tidied up their performance at the breakdown and largely kept their mouths shut.
In truth, this was not a pretty game nor one that will sit long in the memory for open expansive rugby – there’s not a lot to write about in that department, but it is one that, on reflection, the Bicester players, coaches and supporters can be proud of as the team competed well and is starting to gel.
First half scores – 3 points (inevitably) from Crumbs in front of the posts - a well worked try from Henley’s backs finished with pace by their left wing, conversion attempt back off the posts – and a catch & drive from the Bicester pack resulting in a try for dominant no. 8 Will Howard. In the meantime, infringements and foul play lead to four yellow cards for Henley plus a couple of near misses.
5 – 8 up at half time.
The second half started much like the first until a Henley player was red carded for foul play. 'Very robust rucking out of players laying on the wrong side of the ball?' - not today - red card. Around this time, a rugby match broke out – Henley showed what they could do with ball in hand and after 9 or 10 phases they crossed into the Bicester 22. Defence was good but attack was better and Henley had the lead with 15 to go.
Bicester now applied some pressure with Alex making some hard yards. Really good to see him looking after the ball – support there quickly and recycled well. The penalties had trickled to a halt and both sides played some good rugby in attack and defence. Callum spotted a gap and just made it over the line for a well earned try, converted (from rather further out than it needed to be) for a 10 – 15 lead to Bicester with 7 on the clock.
More good running from Henley into the Bicester 22 – couple of tackles missed in open play but strong defence in close quarters before the penalty count mounted against Bicester, ending in yellow. No complaints.
And then a big decision. With virtually no time left Henley had a penalty – central just over 5 metres out. Trumpets blast and the cavalry charge with runners left and right. The referee gave a penalty against Henley leaving many of us bemused. But a look at Law 10.4 – not a or b (punching and stamping respectively) but (p) – and it was the right decision.
The clearance kick was kept in well by the Henley defender, but man of the match scrum half Francois was quick to chase and nicked the ball. He made it about 60 metres but was caught before the line – offloaded (suspicion of forward but it deserved the benefit of the doubt) to Matty in support to seal the win at 10-20.
Full credit to the whole team who competed and tackled well against a big Henley side.
The scrum was a good contest, if a little low on numbers for most of the game though in the latter stages Henley’s replacement hooker conceded a couple – looked like his foot was up on ‘crouch’…
Bicester line out could have been sharper – Henley definitely edged it here – practice needed before the next game with Chinnor.
Backs handling was good – very few passes went astray - and understanding and partnerships fitting together nicely.
Most of all - excellent discipline from the Bicester team who listened and responded well to clear instructions from the referee.
Well done Bicester Colts.