RUGBY: BULLS WIN COUNTY CUP

BULLS have brought back the Oxfordshire Cup to Banbury

BULLS have brought back the Oxfordshire Cup to Banbury BULLS got sweet revenge for their defeat at the hands of Chinnor last yearwhen they brought back the Oxfordshire Cup to Banbury after a 20-19 thriller at Iffley Road, Oxford, on Saturday.

But what a finish! Trailing 12-6 less than ten minutes from the end of a disappointing game it looked as though Chinnor would retain the cup.

But the inspired replacement of Simon Purnell for Adam Robertson by Banbury s coaching staff turned the game their way.

Almost immediately the South African made a difference as Bulls found another gear to run in two tries from Wesley Bahlmann and Michael Styles.

Bulls head of coaching, Peter Payne said:"I have never been so drained after a game. It took a huge amount out of me.

"It s taken me three days to recover from it. The win is a tribute to the hard work we have done this season."

The cup final started well for Banbury with a penalty kick converted by Tony Hurst.

But they were rocked back on their heels as some poor defending allowed Chinnor to score tries through Stuart Tinegate and Paul Fincken, one of which was converted to give them a 12-3 lead.

Bulls couldn t get into their usual rhythm with Chinnor quite happy to break up play with spoiling tactics.

And it was their perisistent infringements that contributed to Chinnor s defeat..

Banbury started to force their way back into the game with the scrum which performed so well in their victory over Scunthorpe coming more into the clash.

Some great kicking by Hurst turned up the pressure on with the pack pushing Chinnor back. Brilliant tackling knocked the stuffing out of Chinnor.

They became frustrated and some more indiscipline allowed Hurst to reduce the deficit to 12-6 with a superb kick from 35 metres.

After the break Bulls tried to keep up the pressure but Chinnor broke up anything Bulls created and were penalised frequently for off-side.

Poor refereeing also contributed to a scrappy game lacking any flow.

Bulls decided a change was needed with Robertson on for Purnell.

It seemed to give Bulls an extra edge.

Rob Cockerton was having a tremendous game and it was after a quick break that Bulls fightback started.

A break from the number eight created a gap in the Chinnor defence with the ball spun out along the backs for the impressive Bahlmann to chip ahead.

As the ball bounced awkwardly it was recycled for the powerful South African to go over for a deserved try.

And it got even better for Bulls after a superb try from Michael Styles. Receiving the ball on half-way he held off a number of challenges to crash over the line.

Hurst s kick made it 20-12 with only minutes left on the clock.

However, Chinnor did not give up with a converted try making it 20-19.

But the drama was not over with Chinnor missing a penalty in the last minute that would have given them a victory which their negative play did not really deserve, though they did stage a final flourish to give Banbury a few anxious moments.

Thankfully for Bulls and their supporters the kick was missed with the referee blowing for time.

Full-back Michael Thomas said: "I have never been on from startto finish in a cup winning team. I have a cup medal but that was when I came on later in the game."

Man of the match Cockerton, who replaced injury victimRob Thurlow at number eight, said: "Chinnor are a hard team to play. We just played them at their game.

"But once we started moving the ball we were okay."

Payne added: "Until they got awarded that penalty at the end I always thought we were going to win. If that had have gone over it would have been a terrible injustice.

"But fate has a terrible way of playing tricks on you. Chinnor tried to stop us playing. They are a good side but we are better.

"We didn t have a very good start. We expected them to come at us with all guns blazing.I thought the atmosphere was tremendous.

"We knew the second half would be tough but with our superior fitness I had every confidence we would come through.

"I think we were destined to win the cup. I really want to pay credit to all the 22 guys. I know some of them did not play but they all contributed to the victory.

"There is a tremendous spirit at Banbury. They partied well into the night in town.

"I never single out players for praise because it is all about the team."

He said replacing Purnell with Robertson had been a tough decision but one he felt had to be made.

"I told Simon that s why we had seven guys on the bench. They can all bring a different aspect to the game.

"Bringing on Robertson was a significant factor.

"I am totally unemotional over things like that. You have to take an objective view. You have to play it as you see it.. It s not a question of individuals or personalities."

Payne also praised the Colts and the veterans for winning their respective cups.

"It is a nice way to end the seaason. I think winning the triple crown is an amazing feat."

Payne said Bulls would face a tough task on Saturday when they travel to Kenilworth.

"Kenilworth have to beat us to stay in this division. It is going to be another cup final. We are really going into a Hornet s nest. But our boys are really up for it.

"Extras have also done well this season and that is where the future lies. We want to start developing the youth side."

l On Saturday the coach of Six Nations winners England, Clive Woodward, will be at Bodicote Park on Saturday to watch England play Ireland in an under-18 match. Admission is 5.