STOW-on-the-Wold Rugby Club went close to toppling Southern Counties North leaders Bletchley before losing 20-19 at Oddington Road.

In an entertaining encounter, early pressure from sixth-placed Stow was rewarded with two Nick Cafearo penalties. But they then failed to convert a scoring opportunity in the corner and Bletchley woke up to claw their way back with a penalty.

A dropped pass let Bletchley close on the try line and, from a scrum, they went blind and Stow missed a crucial tackle to allow a converted try.

But the hosts hit back and, from a period of pressure, Cafearo kicked his third penalty to leave the visitors holding a slender one-point lead at halftime.

Stow started the secondhalf well with pressure resulting in a Bletchley yellow card and a fourth Cafearo penalty.

However, their lead was shortlived as a poor clearance was returned and crucial missed tackles gifted Bletchley a converted try under the posts.

Stow did not panic and worked their way upfield with Bletchley penalised under their own posts and the quick-thinking Andrew Piercey scored.

Cafearo converted to regain the lead but Stow could not hold out and were penalised in the scrum five minutes from time.

The successful penalty handed Bletchley a narrow lead which they held onto.

Despite a great display by Stow, they will kick themselves for not converting chances and missing important tackles. They travel to fifth-placed High Wycombe on Saturday.

􀁥 Mid-table Chipping Norton crashed 46-8 at Oxfordshire rivals Bicester in the Berks/ Bucks and Oxon Premier Division.

The Cotswold outfit host Slough on Saturday.

􀁥 Pershore secured a second consecutive win in Midlands Three West (South), triumphing 29-5 at Kings Norton.

Evesham’s tough season continued with a 52-17 home thrashing by new leaders Pinley.

Only four points separate the top four but the gap is far larger at the foot of the table with Shipston- on-Stour, who lost 21-14 at Cheltenham North, and Evesham stranded.