OXFORDSHIRE’S hopes of reaching Twickenham hang in the balance as the width of a post denied them victory against Essex at Henley.

Banbury’s Joe Mills crossed for a try in the last play of the game for the hosts.

But Chinnor’s Roddy Giles saw his conversion hit the upright as Oxon lost 30-29 in the County Championship clash.

It leaves Craig Burrows’ side third in Pool 1 of Bill Beaumont Division 3 – three points adrift of top spot and a place in the final against the Pool 2 winners.

They now need a bonus-point victory over Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire & Derbyshire on Saturday, while hoping Buckinghamshire beat Essex.

Oxon made a bright start at Henley, but Ed Phillips missed two early penalties.

Essex took full advantage with two tries, one converted, and a penalty opening up a 15-point lead.

But Oxon reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time when Henley’s Harry Burn dived over and Phillips added the extras to make it 15-7.

Essex extended their lead to 25-7, thanks to another converted try and penalty.

Oxon hit back when Oxford Harlequins’ Ed Yeates crossed, Phillips adding the extras, only for the visitors to go over for a fourth time and make it 30-14.

The hosts had enjoyed a far better second half, but too many basic errors saw chances go to waste.

However, with the Essex pack tiring in the last 20 minutes, Oxon stepped up a gear and reduced the deficit to nine points when Henley’s George Primett dived over. Giles converted from the touchline.

The latter then kicked a penalty to make it 30-24 to take them within a converted try of victory.

That looked on the cards when Mills went over in the last play of the game, but Giles saw his conversion attempt from the five-metre line hit the right post.

Burrows said: “We would have got out of jail if we had won, as we made too many basic mistakes, although the replacements made a huge impact when they came on.”