STOW-on-the-Wold Rugby Club have an early crunch clash on Saturday, November 15, in their Southern Counties North title chase.

The top-of-the-table Cotswold side entertain second-placed Thatcham, who are three points behind, at Oddington Road (2.30pm).

Stow go into the match on the back of a tight 15-8 home win over mid-table Royal Wotton Bassett.

In a tight encounter, Stow were slow to start and, like the Marlow game two weeks previously, defended for most of the first half.

But Stow’s solid defence frustrated the visitors, who struggled to score points despite their possession.

The first score came when Stow tried to run the ball out of defence but were pulled up for crossing, which resulted in a successful penalty for the visitors.

Nick Cafearo soon levelled with the hosts’ first penalty of the day when Bassett slipped their binding in the scrum.

It looked like Stow would hold out but, right on half-time, Wotton Bassett deservedly went ahead with an unconverted try in the corner after a bombardment of the line.

Stow woke up in the second period but still struggled to string phases together, which made the game disjointed.

However, the referee was getting more frustrated with Wotton Bassett as they continued to infringe at the breakdown.

It was only a matter of time before the first yellow card.

Stow took advantage with a second Cafearo penalty for offside.

Just as the Wiltshire side went back to 15 men, they lost another to the sin-bin.

Cafearo slotted two more penalties in quick succession, both for offside offences, to establish a seven-point lead.

On the final whistle, reckless footwork from a Wotton Bassett forward added a red card to their two yellows.

After their toughest test of the season, Stow, who have won six of their first seven league games, have a weekend off before tackling Thatcham.

Stow’s second XV enjoyed an emphatic 73-7 win over Bream.

Meanwhile, third-from-bottom Chipping Norton won their first game of the season in the Berks/Bucks and Oxon Premier Division, defeating mid-table Hungerford 36-28.

They visit Gosford All Blacks on Saturday.