READING Abbey slumped to a third consecutive Southern Counties North defeat as they went down 22-16 at Bicester.

The visitors dominated the opening 20 minutes, though only had an Ollie Walton penalty to make it 3-0.

Bicester hit back with a try from wing Peter Tarrega, and they took control with further scores from full back Charlie Bethell and centre Dan Walker, Josh Woodward converting only the first try.

Walton landed a second penalty to cut the gap to 17-6 at the interval.

Abbey started the second half as the first, pressing the Bicester line for a score.

Twice they were denied by being held up over the line, again knock-ons and needless penalties held them back.

Replacement Maurice O’Connell added some straight running up front, which paid dividends when Bicester were reduced to 14 men following a yellow card to Walker for a tip tackle.

Abbey attacked the try line, sucked in the defence and then put John Malivoire over for the try in the corner, too far out for the kick to be successful,

With a single score separating the sides, Abbey’s hopes of going in front were dashed when another strong scrum from the home side marched forward, putting Abbey on the back foot for Bicester’s centre Peter Howard to touch down earning a bonus-point fourth try, another conversion going wide.

Sticking to their task, Abbey pulled back that try with one of their own from second row Toby Staker, again the extras going begging.

It set up an exciting final 15 minutes as Abbey wanted to hang onto the losing bonus-point while forcing the pace to grab a try, which with a conversion would have given them the win.

Abbey had the possession, moved the ball around and tried to find the gaps, but Bicester’s defence stayed intact and they saw the game out.

Bicester won because their bigger pack had the upper hand, not just in scrums, and they stole much of Abbey’s line-out ball and put together some impressive drives.

That left Abbey frustrated and angry at themselves as their neater skills had failed to thread a way through to the try line.

This Saturday sees Abbey at Rosehill against fourth-placed Buckingham (2.30pm).

BERKSHIRE Shire Hall's three-match BB&O Championship winning run came to a screeching halt with a 50-0 reverse at home to Abingdon.

Third-placed Berkshire Shire Hall visit Aldermaston this coming Saturday.