Bicester travelled with several players missing through injury (and AWOL) to a Reading Abbey side who were looking to impress with a Berkshire county selector watching. The resulting final score looked very one-sided however Bicester let themselves down by a series of mistakes on which Abbey capitalised.
The first half started with both sides competing for the ball, and for the first 10 minutes the game was fairly even with Abbey showing their skill at the breakdown to steal good ball and then use their big centres to punch down the middle and Bicester showing their tenacity to counter ruck and drive the ball forward. Then after a good start Bicester tackling decided to go AWOL and following a huge defensive kick from Bicester the Abbey fullback picked the ball up in his own 22 and ran the ball back, there appeared to be ample cover but he ran through the Bicester defensives with at least three attempted tap tackles failing to stop him to open the scoring 0 – 7. From the kick-off Abbey secured the ball before breaking down the blindside where again the tackling was questionable to allow them to score 0 – 14. Bicester didn’t give up and tried to open the game up running the ball in their own 22 only for a mis-placed pass being knocked on for Abbey to simply pick up and stroll over for the score 0 – 21. At this stage Abbey had their tails up and started a series of breaks close to the ruck which Bicester held up. Bicester got their hands on the ball and threatened to break away but at the ruck the ball was turned over and another break close to the ruck allowed Abbey through this time with no cover in place to score 0 – 28. Abbey were now full of confidence being more committed at the breakdown but Bicester were holding their own in the scrums and lineouts. The backs were trying to make those important yards and a couple of times were just caught on the outside when seeming to be away. Bicester again ran the ball but passing didn’t go to hand and the ball was dropped for Abbey to kick through to score 0 – 35. From the kick-off Bicester chose to kick open away from its own players and the Abbey No.8 caught the ball and brushing off a couple of tackles ran through to score 0 – 42. There was just time for Abbey to score a final try which included a forward pass, not seen by the referee, to end the half 0 – 47.
Changes were made at half time and Bicester dug in for what looked like a long second half. However it was again Bicester’s own mistakes that put them under pressure and in running the ball from its own line a pass wasn’t caught cleanly and popped up for the Abbey winger to intercept and jog over to score 0 – 54. A penalty was then given on the Bicester 22 and in a set move the ball was worked to the Abbey centre who ran through a couple of tackles to score 0 – 59. Bicester kept plugging away but were second best to the ball and just could not get out of their own half, another move allowed Abbey to score again 0 – 66. With 10 minutes of play remaining we were left scratching our heads as suddenly Bicester decided to join in the fun and stopped making mistakes, started making tackles and changed the game around. In their normal style the ball was driven forward and supporting players were there to take the ball on and for the first time Abbey were on the back foot. A resultant penalty was run wide by Bicester and after good hands saw Christian in at the corner 5 – 66. This cheered Bicester up and they came straight back from the kick-off and with a series of drives and offloads again won a penalty. They ran the ball wide and with good support Garin was in at the corner 10 – 66. Abbey were now hanging on and Bicester rucking was solid gaining good ball for the backs to show what they could do. From a ruck in midfield the ball went through the hands and Cameron H took a direct line to cut through and score under the posts with Ieuan converting 17 – 66. Bicester again took the ball to Abbey and the final whistle came with Bicester threatening the Abbey line. Final score 17 – 66, not so much a game of two halves but rather a game of 50 minutes and a game of 10 minutes!
The impressive thing to take from the game was the attitude of the boys, not once did I hear any back chat and everything was positive which resulted in a fine finish to the game. However there are plenty of things to take away, defence – too many tackles missed, rucks – committing too many people when we have lost the ball, handling – we have lost the ‘go forward’ resulting in dropped passes. But the support play in the last 10 minutes was back to its best, let’s just start that way next week. Well done squad of Josh, Alfie, Oscar, Alan, Tom B, Cameron D, Ashley, Mark, Harrison, Adam, Dan B, Garin, Christian, Ieuan, Max, Ed, Benjamin, Tom C, Cameron H, Louis, James, Ethan.