Josh Bartlett - hat-trick
Newbury Blues 46 Oxford Harlequins 14
THE second loudest cheer of the afternoon rang out when news came through that Old Centralians had downed Old Patesians and Blues had charged into second place in South West One East.
Now four points ahead of their Cheltenham rivals, only Reading’s two clubs - bottom of the table Reading and similarly relegation-threatened Reading Abbey - can deny Blues an end of season play-off and probably a home game with Clevedon.
“I asked the boys for a big performance,” said head coach Lee Goodall, “as this was one of our potential banana skins.
“But the tries we scored today were top drawer and some of the best we’ve scored all year and the performance was superb.
“But what I said to the boys under the posts is that we can celebrate tonight, but there's still two games to go and we’ve got to win both games and get bonus points out of them if we can and then think about the play-offs.”
Full back Josh Bartlett ran in a hat-trick of tries in a game that saw Blues surge clear in the opening stages. Jon Bastable touched inside four minutes of the start, Nick Wackwitz adding a conversion and a penalty before Josh Love had a likely denied him at the cost of a free seven-pointer before Harlequins rallied with a Sam Watkinson try converted by Huw Dimond and a better spell that ended when Bartlett rounded off a flowing move by going over for another Wackwitz-converted score to give Blues a 24-7 lead at the break.
The bonus poiont was in the bag in the first minute of the second period when Bartlett was again on the end of a rapid break, and Joe Pigott soon added another.
Jamie Futcher was on the end of a move carved out by Dan Thorne and Alex Millar, and although Archie Van Dijk added a second try for Harlequins, converted by Watkinson, Bartket touched down his third before the end to seal half of a winning double completed by Old Centralians’ 18-10 success that leaves Blus’ promotion hopes in their own hands.
Newbury Blues: Bartlett; T. Thorne, D. Thorne, Love, Pearce; Wackwitz, Pigott; G. Stewart, Drysdale, Macauley; Bastable, Doel; Spanswick, D. Stewart, Jones. Subs: Hicks, Millar, Futcher.