BICESTER’S automatic promotion hopes effectively ended with a 31-13 defeat at home to leaders Marlow.

The visitors came from ten points down at half-time to score four second-half tries, pick up a bonus and go nine points clear in Southern Counties North.

Second-placed Bicester will now have to settle for going up via a play-off.

It looked good for the hosts at half-time as they led 13-3.

Tom Miles landed two penalties, before Marlow’s Nick Carvey, who had previously missed two efforts at goal, landed one to make it 6-3.

Then in first-half injury-time, Bicester looked to have taken a decisive lead, when scrum half Christian Mann crossed.

Miles’s conversion put Bicester ten points clear.

But Marlow, playing down the slope, went on to dominate.

Full back Carvey converted his own try, before Hampton had a kick charged down and flanker Ian Thompson crossed in the left corner. Carvey added the extras.

There was now only one winner and further tries from Dominic Crayden and winger Matt Sanders, both converted by Carvey, put Marlow within a whisker of promotion.

Gosford All Blacks picked up a bonus point in a 29-25 loss at Buckingham.

Despite Chris Bennett’s early penalty, the hosts scored the first try of the game when Charlie Gulliver went over.

Ed Kidman converted.

But Miles Johnson’s unconverted try saw All Blacks lead 8-7 at the break.

Jamie Lee went over, with Kidman adding the extras, as Buckingham moved back in front, before Chris Bennett’s penalty cut the arrears.

All Blacks were soon 18-14 ahead as Johnson crossed again and Bennett converted.

However, tries from Adam Clarke and Kidman, the first converted, saw the hosts haul themselves into a 26-18 lead.

But Gosford hit back when Sutton raced over and Bennett added the extras to cut the deficit to one point.

All Blacks had their tails up, but a Kidman penalty secured victory for the home side.

Meanwhile, Wallingford beat Thatcham 15-11.