At last a week away from league games allowing the whole squad to gain valuable game time against a Stratford side who have always run us close, and to today was no different. The match was split into three 20 minute periods and as Stratford only had 14 men Bicester lent them a winger for each period (thank you to Benjamin, Ben L and Louis).
Bicester started the first period slowly allowing Stratford to win ball that should have been ours and used their big centre to drive some holes in the defence. Bicester indiscipline gave away a penalty which was taken quickly behind the referees back allowing Stratford to run through to score without a hint of a tackle being made 0 - 7. Bicester came back at Stratford and started playing rugby in the opposition half resulting in a penalty of their own. The forwards took the ball on with a good drive and set for Josh to pick up and crash over 5 - 7. At this stage Bicester were looking good and moving up through the gears after their normal slow start but after 10 minutes of the game Max expressed his opinion at one of his own players in language that the referee deemed 'inappropriate and offensive' and promptly sin binned him for the rest of the first half. From the lineout restart Bicester cleared its lines only for a simple penalty to be given away by players following up being in front of the kicker (basics boys basics!). Stratford opted for a scrum 5 which they picked up but were stopped before breaking blind and out to the winger (Benjamin!) who scored 5 - 12. With a man down Bicester were not able to make any headway and Stratford made a break and their big fast centre was away for a sure score only for Alan chasing back to launch himself full length for a fantastic tap tackle to stop him. However after a while Stratford made best use of their extra player winning a scrum against the head and out to their winger (Benjamin again!) to go over to score 5 - 17 to end the first period.
The second period started with Bicester back to the full 15 but they had to defend as Stratford started strongly. Near their own line Bicester forwards started rucking and turned the ball over which they then ran in their own 22 but good hands got the ball out to Lewis who backed himself to go on the outside and all the way to score 10 - 17. Stratford came back at Bicester and from a scrum ran the ball wide for the winger (Ben L!) to score 10 - 22. Bicester were not amused and from the kick off Bicester won good ball which Dan T picked up and went on one of his storming runs with handoffs that made you wince to score which Christian nicely converted 17 - 22. Bicester were now playing some great rugby and a move with lots of support and offloads ended with Rhys sprinting 50 metres to score with again Christian converting 24 - 22. This should have been the end of the period but Stratford would not give up and again ran the ball wide for the winger to score 24 - 27 to end the second period.
The third period started with Bicester in a determined mood and they were not going to lose. From a lineout good ball was distributed and headway was made in the midfield, the forwards set and rucked and the ball was popped to Rhys to go over 29 - 27. Things were looking good until another bout of indiscipline changed the game. Under pressure from Stratford Bicester again used some 'inappropriate and offensive' language and with no player owning up (shame on the culprit) the referee picked on Cameron D to be sent off. From the resulting penalty Stratford went over for a score 29 - 32. Bicester were now likely to lose a game they should have won through their own fault but luckily the heads focused and with the best move of the match they snatched victory, a lineout was won cleanly and the ball was passed down the line and with a No.2 move in the centres Ben L went over in the corner which James converted 36 - 32. The game was not over as Stratford earned themselves a couple of penalties however the defence held firm for the final whistle to blow.
A satisfactory day spoilt by the indiscipline and focus, boys remember you need to play the opposition and not the referee, he will not change his mind so forget it and get on! However it was nice to see the whole squad perform together and our wingers clinical finishing (even if three were for the opposition!), well done Oscar, Adam, Dan B, Alan, Ashley, Harrison, Garin, Josh, Alfie, Tom B, Dan T, Cameron D, Mark, Christian, Max, Ethan, Ed, Ben L, Louis, James, Rhys, Cameron H, Lewis, Benjamin.