INJURY-hit Royal Wootton Bassett delivered a gritty performance against Oxford Harlequins at Ballards Ash on Saturday to keep their South West One (East) promotion hopes alive.

Alan Low’s XV triumphed 34-33 in a game that saw both teams hold the lead in each half before Simon Anderton’s late effort for the hosts just about wrapped up Bassett’s 13th win of the season.

Bassett’s promotion rivals Old Centralians and Banbury also triumphed on the opening weekend of 2020, meaning the Royals remain third in the table – two points short of Centralians who top the table.

Saturday’s game ebbed a flowed as tries for Joe Pettit, Josh McCafferty and Chris Patterson handed Bassett a two-point lead at half time against 14-man Oxford.

Quins hit back when the hosts’ Elye Darragh saw yellow for an offside infringement to lead 23-19 before Dan Hale and Anderton added Bassett’s two late tries to earn an important win.

Reflecting on the game, Bassett chief Low marked Oxford as one of the most talented squad’s in the competitive 14-team division.

He added: “We had a few players missing, but we still started the game off really well.

“A sending off spurred them into life a bit, they changed their game plan twice and made some notable changes. They’ve certainly improved from where they were before Christmas and when we played them at the start of the season.

“The rugby Oxford played was really good. There were moments where we felt we were on top, but structure-wise Oxford were probably one of the top two sides we have played this season.”

Victory was perhaps that bit sweeter for Low considering he was without the services of Connor Tomley, Scott Douglas and Phil Bardwell.

Bardwell’s absence was a result of him aggravating a shoulder injury that hurt his progress throughout last season.

Squad depth therefore played its part in Saturday’s win, and Low is pleased with the players he has available at his service.

He added: “I feel our squad depth is good enough to be able to cope with absences.

“It wasn’t our most fluid performance defensively, though we played reasonably well in attack despite not taking a few opportunities.

“In saying that, against a team on the up we’re very pleased to get a positive win.”

Elsewhere across the region, Swindon started the new year in style by beating North Dorset 21-26 in Southern Counties South.

The result helped Nick Brookes’ side leapfrog Devizes into third place after the latter lost to table topping Grove.

Swindon College Old Boys were also in Southern Counties action, they lost 31-24 to Walcot and dropped to ninth.