A DEPLETED Oxford Cavaliers suffered a 52-32 defeat at Somerset Vikings in the West of England League.

Hampered by unavailability and injury, the Merton-based side travelled to Weston-super-Mare with only 14 players.

But they more than held their own in the first period to trail by only two points, before Somerset took control.

The loss leaves Oxford third in the table, five points adrift of leaders Reading Raiders.

Cavaliers handed debuts to three of their starting 13, but they were dealt a blow inside the first minute when Garin Nicholls was forced off with an injury.

However, the visitors opened the scoring and went on to lead 16-12, before they were pegged back and trailed 22-20 at the break.

Debutant James Blackmore, Samson Earle, Kane Hands and Arron Lambourne crossed for Oxford, Louis Richards kicking two conversions.

Cavaliers’ lack of substitutes began to show in the second half, with Somerset adding 30 unanswered points.

But the visitors rallied late on, with Blackmore and Lambourne crossing in the final five minutes.