Bulls book final spot to keep alive hopes of doing double

Jacob Mills heads for the line against Oxford Harlequins. Photo: Simon Grieve
Jacob Mills heads for the line against Oxford Harlequins. Photo: Simon Grieve

Banbury Bulls booked their place in next week’s Oxon Knockout Cup final with a resounding 24-11 victory over Oxford Harlequins.

The Midlands Two West South leaders will meet Henley Bulls in Wednesday’s final at Iffley Road in a repeat of the 2014 showpiece.

The South West Division One East outfit had the edge up front in Friday’s semi-final at Bodicote Park while Banbury’s advantage came in their three quarters. And it was Harlequins who had the better for the opening exchanges, looking fluid with the ball they made ground up the field easily.

Bulls gave away a penalty under the posts but, with a big home crowd behind them, they responded and were next on the score board.

Josh Deegan struck from first phase ball following a line out, after setting the platform up front, Ed Phillips fed Sam Stoop who found Matt Goode. The back line worked together as Deegan timed his run to perfection, latching on to Goode’s blind pass, stepping the full back to slide in and Phillips added the extras.

Bulls extended their lead when they tidied up from their own line-out. Stoop spread the ball wide on the left flank, Adam Walsh combined with Joe Mills who found Jimmy Manley, he off-loaded to Jacob Mills who was taken over the line and Phillips again added the conversion.

Harlequins entered Banbury’s 22 with a penalty kicked into the corner. Again Bulls infringed in front of the posts but were able to keep the visitors out with their advantage. Harlequins again took three points from their visit to Banbury’s territory as the half ended 14-6 to the hosts.

Harlequins came away with points at both times of asking but Bulls controlled territory and possession in the first period.

After the restart Bulls extended their lead. From a scrum in the visitors 22, Stoop used Goode as a dummy running and hit Manley, who dived over the line and Phillips made it 21-6.

Chasing the game, Harlequins allowed errors to creep into the game. But they finally breached the Banbury line when captain Allan Purchase smashed over. In the closing stages Bulls were awarded a penalty 40 metres out and Phillips slotted the ball through the middle.

The final minutes were played in the home 22 but Bulls held up a maul before the final whiste to end Harlequins’ late push.