Banbury Bulls put in a terrific team performance to beat Maidenhead 20-17 and knock them off top of the South West One East table.
Seventeen unanswered points in the first half – plus a solid defensive performance – was the backbone of the fine win.
Bulls struck early in the match through prop Cash Chilvers.
A Jack Briggs up-and-under was gathered by recent signing Freddie Cracknell who off-loaded to Briggs and the ball was carried to the five-metre line.
With the defence still trying to scramble into position, the ball was recycled down the short side where Chilvers created himself just enough space to crash over the line.
Ed Phillips was on target with the conversion.
Bulls extended their lead through a Phillips penalty but then the defences began to cancel each other out. Each time some advantage and field possession was gained, the defence would come out on top.
But it was the Bulls who struck again with this time Cracknell crossing the line in the Clubhouse corner after good work from Sam Stoop and Matt Goode. After that is needed a very solid defensive performance to keep Maidenhead out for the rest of the half.
Bulls strengthened the scrum up by bringing on Ken Key in the front row and, even though Chris Phillips received a yellow for repeated high tackles, they managed to repel each attack.
Ed Phillips’ reliable boot extended the lead to 20-0 with an early second-half penalty before Maidenhead received a yellow for an infringement in the tackle.
However, it was the visitors who got on the score board next.
A solid drive from a line-out set Maids to go to their back line and they crossed the line.
It got worse as, straight from the restart, they made good yards. Phases were worked in midfield creating an overlap out wide which was not wasted.
Maidenhead continued their comeback as they came again. Banbury’s previously solid defence was inviting pressure as they allowed Maids to run at them.
Eventually the pressure told and Maidenhead scored another unconverted try to make it 20-17. But Bulls stepped up their defence and work-rate both on and off the ball.
Bulls retained the ball well at the end as they ran the clock down, eventually elapsing time and bringing an infringement at the breakdown. The penalty, gently nudged into touch, sealed a well-deserved 20-17 victory against obvious league title contenders.