READING Abbey slipped to their third consecutive Southern Counties North defeat as they went down 30-12 at home to Bicester.

Abbey held the juggernaut pack of Bicester for the first half, but could not sustain the effort in the second when the visitors progressively dominated.

Bicester took the early lead.

They took a line-out close to Abbey’s line with their pack executing a perfect drive, second row Will Thurlow in possession for the touch down and fly-half 10 Dan Walker adding the extras.

Abbey soon replied when scrum-half and captain Will Bevan created a gap from the base of an attacking maul. He was stopped short of the line, but No. 8 Matt Simmons, having a fine game, was in support to take the ball and finish off from close range.

Bicester’s pack rarely gave an inch, but hard work from Abbey stopped them moving forward in the scrums for the first half.

The visitors’ backs moved the ball around testing Abbey’s defence, whilst Abbey’s full-back Connor Limbrick and wings Jules Greenaway and Ryan Williams were threatening with their speed.

A Walker penalty extended the Bicester lead to 12-10, but Abbey got their noses in front before the break after scoring an opportunistic try when Limbrick chased his own kick ahead and slipped the ball to outside half John Malvoire to put down the try, with centre Ollie Walton adding the points.

The second half was Bicester’s, capitalising on the strength of their pack in the set-piece and competence in line-outs, also sapping Abbey’s energy with strong runs.

Abbey sustained their defensive structures and shuffled their pack, but to no avail.

Matters worsened on the hour as referee Simon Sheppard yellow carded Mike Beckly for not retreating 10 yards from a quickly-taken penalty taken on the halfway line.

With a man down, Abbey defended a series of five-metre scrums, illegally in the view of the referee and he awarded a seven-point penalty try.

Thereafter as Bicester bullied proceedings, the game petered out with players losing empathy with the referee.

The visitors added a late try from prop Tom Horwood who had stood out wide, with Walker adding the two points as well as kicking two second-half penalties to bring his personal tally to 13 for the game.

Abbey’s man-of-the-match was prop Edd Woodger put in some splendid barrelling runs, while Adam Postlethwaite won his honours tie for his 60th first-team league game.

Abbey next visit Buckingham on March 23.

l BERKSHIRE Shire Hall were thumped 62-7 by BB&O Championship leaders Chipping Norton.

The Sonning Lane side visit Abingdon on Saturday, March 23.