ROYAL Wootton Bassett returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 19-14 victory over county rivals Marlborough in their local derby on Saturday.

Alan Low’s men suffered a defeat for the first time this season a week prior courtesy of their 28-13 loss to Chippenham, but responded with good character to stay within two points of leaders Old Centralians with one game to go before the Christmas break.

Bassett had the best of the early play and in the eighth minute, centre Jefeti Vakalalabure cleverly chipped a high ball into the Marlborough 22 that fly-half Troy Cusack neatly collected and touched down beneath the posts.

In the 23rd minute, Marlborough tried to run the ball out of defence but a loose pass on the halfway line was gathered by the outstanding Vakalalabure, who went on a mazy run and outwitted the defence to score under the posts.

Bassett continued to look the better side but there were warning signs as Marlborough’s set scrum became increasingly dominant and ensured a good supply of ball for the visiting backs.

Just before the break, Bassett lost influential front-row forward Phil Bardwell to a yellow after an offence at the ruck.

As the game moved into added time, a huge Marlborough scrum saw the ball picked up by a forward, who went over the tryline. The simple conversion reduced the deficit to 14-7.

The second half was very different from the first as the Marlborough forwards ensured their side dominated territory and possession.

Despite this, they were finding it impossible to break down the Bassett defence in open play.

However, with five minutes remaining, Marlborough had a sequence of scrums near the Bassett line.

Eventually the score came when the referee awarded a penalty to try to level the game up at 14-14.

Bassett responded immediately after the restart, pushing deep into Marlborough territory with some excellent running rugby.

A ruck saw the ball released to Cusack, whose long pass was brilliantly picked up off the floor by Vakalalabure and passed to flying winger Dan Hale to go over in the corner.

There was still time for a restart and Marlborough had one last chance to respond, but a turnover allowed Bassett to kick the ball out of play and secure a hard-fought victory.

Elsewhere in South West One East, Chippenham roared to a dominant 42-24 victory away at bottom club Salisbury to bump themselves up into seventh in the league table.

Finally, Trowbridge produced a spirited performance but lost 47-40 at home to Buckingham.

Trowbridge round off their 2019 fixtures away at county rivals Chippenham on Saturday, Bassett travel to Old Patesians, while Marlborough have a home clash against Sherborne.