Banbury Bulls flew out of the traps in Saturday’s South West One East clash only to fade to a frustrating 36-28 defeat against Grove, narrowly missing out on both bonus points.
Bulls addressed their failings from the previous two weeks and turned their early pressure into points at Bodicote Park.
The opening score came after a free-kick was awarded for an early scrum engagement only five metres from the Grove line. Ed Phillips tapped and tried to dart for the line, as he was scragged he fed Chris Phillips who muscled his way through two players to dot down.
Phillips added the two points but Grove struck back almost straight away with a penalty in front of the posts from Sam Vaughan. Bulls continued to press and crossed the white wash again, this time following a line-out when a well worked move was finished off by Carl Daniels with Phillips converting for a 14-3 lead.
But Bulls allowed the visitors to impose themselves on the game and they gave away careless penalties which Grove used well to work their way into the corner. They drove over the line with Steve Dixy dotting down at the back of the maul and Vaughan added the extras.
On their next visit to the Grove 22, Bulls were awarded a penalty and Phillips gave his side a 17-10 lead. But Grove took advantage of a lack of line speed from the hosts and Dave Wells crossed for the visitors.
Bulls lost their foothold in the game, Grove had a try ruled out for a forward pass before Cashel Chilvers got a yellow card. Grove again took advantage with a try from Josh Tyler with Vaughan converting to go into the break 22-17 ahead.
After the restart, Grove added yet another converted try through Wells, despite Phillips looking as through he had won the race for the loose ball.
Despite not being at their fluent best, Bulls managed to turn possession into points through two Phillips penalties to close the gap to six points.
But just as Bulls got back in the game Grove scored the try of the match, with a well worked team try from first phase ball with Tyler going over and Vaughan converted for a 36-23 lead.
Grove had a player sin-binned with five minutes left and Max Titchener scored his first try for the club but Phillips missed arguably the most important kick of the day.