Bicester welcomed Shipston-on-Stour to Oxford Road on a sunny but blustery day. With Shipston in the league above Bicester the team knew they would need to play well and contest every breakdown to get their hands on the ball. What ensued was an enthralling encounter where attack and defence from both sides was of a high quality with the result in question right up to the final kick of the match.
Bicester, with a rearranged back line including debutant Laith, kicked off into the wind and with the ball not going ten were immediately on the back foot with a scrum to Shipston. Regaining the ball Bicester started to drive at Shipston and forced them back with good rucking technique to secure ball that was taken on producing a positive start to the game. But Shipston were able to absorb the pressure and with the defences on both sides being solid little opportunity was being found by either side. It was Shipstons turn to apply the pressure and threatened the Bicester line with their dangerous runners out wide just being stopped by Ieuan and Lewis and the rest of the cover defence. Good turnover ball allowed Bicester to clear their lines and again apply their own pressure. Shipston put in a relieving kick which was expertly fielded by Ieuan who immediately attacked and found Lewis in space who with one man to beat went around him and in at the corner 5 – 0. Good rugby was being produced by both sides with Shipston starting to edge the scrums and lineouts. Bicester suffered a couple of injuries which disrupted their shape and this allowed Shipston to drive through and score 5 – 5.
The second half started with Shipston exerting the early pressure but again good team defence held them up. A turnover ball allowed Shipston to drive forward and an excellent line by Shipston saw them through and over 5 – 10. Bicester now had their scrum moving forward and were winning their lineouts allowing the backs to make some progress up the field. A series of driving rucks had Bicester close to Shipstons line with Callum taking the ball on several times before he found the gap and was through to score with Dan W converting 12 – 10. Bicester kept the pressure on and with Shipston infringing in front of their posts Dan W slotted the penalty over 15 – 10. The intensity of the game was telling and both sides were making little mistakes and taking wrong options until Shipston found a way through to score a converted try 15 – 17. Both teams were now looking to make the final defining breakthrough but again both sets of defences were up to the challenge. The referee called last play and Shipston eager to close the game out went offside giving away a penalty 25m out. Dan W stepped up and slotted the ball neatly only for the wind not to bring the ball in as it narrowly went past the far post to signal the end to the game.
A real team performance against a large and well organised Shipston side where the margins between winning and losing were small. Everyone put in an effort that we can take a lot of positives from, we just need to be a bit more game savvy for it all to click. Special mention to Laith for a really solid first game for Bicester. Man of the Match: Dan W for his all round game play. Squad of Liam, Oscar, Garin, Ed, Max, Harrison, Jonny, Ashley, Cameron, Joey, Adam, Dan B, Callum, Christian, Dan W, Lewis, Mark, Laith, Louis and Ieuan.