Oxfordshire face an uphill battle to avoid relegation after a below-par display in their 18-14 defeat at Chinnor in the south group of the County Championship Shield on Saturday.

They must now beat hosts Hertfordshire by 29 points in their final match to avoid slipping back into the Plate.

This was a game that Oxon, who fielded a stronger side than in their opening defeat to Cornwall, would have expected to win.

Indeed, on the rare occasions their back line got moves going, the hosts looked dangerous.

But Eastern Counties always had the edge up front, particularly in the scrums where loose-head prop Des Brett was a real menace.

Chinnor wing Pip Seymour showed his class with two well-taken tries, while Rugby Lions' Matt Goode impressed at inside centre.

Oxon's outstanding player, however, was Oxford Harlequins scrum half Anthony Cope, although too many of his runs were made as his side went backwards.

Fly half Peter Clifford put Eastern Counties in front with a fourth-minute penalty.

The visitors' pack already looked strong, although Seymour and full back Richard Williams hinted at Oxon's potential with some neat interplay..

Oxfordshire took the lead with a classic move from the base of a scrum. Newbury No 8 Gregor Hayter and Cope combined well for Seymour to twist over on 18 minutes.

Fly half James Cathcart kicked a fine conversion and it looked as if they might push on.

However, Eastern Counties replied with a try from lock Paul Cayley, which had all stemmed from Oxon centre Martin Nutt fumbling inside his own 22.

Nutt's loose pass then almost set up an interception try for left wing Tom Holt, but the hosts recovered well.

A second Clifford penalty, on the stroke of half-time, gave Eastern Counties a deserved 11-7 lead.

The visitors continued to threaten, with centre Adrian Ball slicing through midfield and scrum half Gideon Steydon coming close.

Prop Tim Groom powered over on 49 minutes for a try, which Clifford converted.

There was plenty of time for Oxon to recover, but they lacked a cutting edge Hayter and Banbury flanker Sean Bannister both gained good ground from quick penalties, while replacement full back Nick Sevier made a couple of useful runs.

One of these led to Eastern Counties centre Pena Sokia being yellow-carded for killing the ball on 64 minutes, but Oxon couldn't exploit the extra space in the backs.

Their second try was, however, a bright moment on a hot, but bleak day.

Goode dummied through midfield, replacement prop Simon Chadbone took up the running and Seymour showed great power and pace to get over on the right.

A superb conversion from Goode gave Oxon a slight chance, but the visitors played out time well.

Oxon: Williams (Chinnor), Seymour (Chinnor), Nutt (Newbury), Goode (Rugby Lions) Sewell 79 (Oxford Harlequins), Carter (Chinnor), Cathcart (Chinnor) Sevier 54 (Grove), Cope (Oxford Harlequins), Winpenny (Chinnor), Needham (Oxford Harlequins) Rudman 70 (Oxford), Whelan (Chinnor) Chadbone 54 (Oxford Harlequins), Hutchings (capt, Chinnor), Pearson (Blue Boar) Eckert 40 (Oxford Harlequins), Payne (Newbury), Bannister (Banbury), Hayter (Newbury).

Referee: R Campbell (North Midlands).

Oxon man-of-the-match: A Cope.