Banbury Bulls are finding it tough to grind out results at the next level after their fourth defeat in five outings.
High-flying Newbury Blues ran out 28-20 winners in Saturday’s South West One East fixture at Bodicote Park where Bulls came from behind to lead but lost their way in the closing stages.
The game started at a frantic pace. Newbury received the kick-off and started as they meant to go on, the forwards producing clean quick ball and the slick backs moving it at pace.
Bulls struggled to cope with the speed of the game initially but scrambled well on numerous occasions to keep Newbury from crossing the line. But eventually the pressure told and Newbury broke the deadlock with a converted try.
Newbury missed a penalty and a chance went begging for Bulls before they drew level when Sam Stoop’s deep kick wasn’t gathered cleanly by the Newbury full-back. Bulls took a quick line-out through the impressive Jack Briggs and recycled the ball, it was spread wide and Stoop went over unchallenged after Josh Deegan off-loaded out of contact.
Stand-in captain Ed Phillips added the extras and then put Bulls in front from a penalty. Bulls had to survive another scare after Newbury edged the first half.
Bulls came out the stronger in the second half and increased their lead through another Phillips’ penalty. But they failed to gather from the resulting kick-off and Newbury went over with a converted try to retake the lead.
Newbury got their tails up and Bulls failed to deal with the hard running line from the visitors. Newbury added two more converted tries that were a result of Banbury’s soft defence.
Trailing 28-13, Bulls faced an ever stiffer task as the heavens opened up. But Newbury played the conditions perfectly, kicking behind the home side and making them work from deep in their own half.
With just a few minutes left on the clock Bulls gained some momentum and a string of penalties saw them march up the field. In the process Newbury were reduced to 13 men through two yellow cards.
The first to their tight head prop for dangerous play when clearing at the breakdown and the second for the scrum half throwing the ball away after a penalty was conceded.
Although Cash Chilvers crossed for his first try for the club and Phillips added the conversion, that was to be the final play of the game. There was no time left for Bulls to get the losing bonus point.