Banbury lose top spot after derby day defeat by Oxford Harlequins
Bulls have lost top spot in South West 1 (East) after last weekend’s derby defeat, writes Alex Inch.
Banbury slipped to only their third defeat of the season with a 25-10 loss to county rivals, Oxford Harlequins.
James Hibbert had joined the long-term injury list after he broke his hand in three places inthe previous weekend’s victory over Marlborough.
Despite the growing injury count the Bulls were still able to name a strong squad for the short trip to their county rivals.
The opening stages were close with both teams making use of the small pitch to take advantage of the new 50/22 law introduced this season.
Both teams had chances, but Banbury failed to turn their early possession and territory into any points.
Quins would take the lead when Allan Purchase drove his way over from close range.
Ewan Fox’s conversion attempt falling short, 5-0. Jonathan Hughes added a second try in a similar position as Quins dominated the later stages of the first half. Ewan Fox this time adding the extras, 12-0.
Banbury started the second half brightly and Ian Isham got Banbury back into the game when he drove over at the back of a rolling maul. Conversion missed.
Banbury knocked on at the restart though, gifting Quins good territory. The home side took full advantage when Harry Burn snuck his way over from close range shortly after.
Ian Isham scored a second try with Banbury driving another rolling maul over the try line.
The Bulls pushed the conversion wide though and Quins would secure the victory with two late penalties to kill any hopes of a comeback.
The full-time whistle followed shortly, and Banbury could have few complaints about the final result.
Quins playing and training on an artificial pitch gives them a unique advantage, but their intensity in defence had nothing to do with the pitch they played on and in the end, they deserved to win.
Banbury have four games left now and will realistically have to win all of them if they want to stand a chance of winning the title.
Quins head the table on 96 points from their 22 games, with Banbury on 93 and Bracknell a further point behind on 92.
The title will be decided among those three, with fourth place Newbury well adrift on 80.
Banbury’s next game is at home to tenth-placed Sherborne on March 26, followed by a trip to Trowbridge, currently fifth, on April 2.