Bulls grind out a draw at the leaders

Despite being unable to secure that elusive first victory at Royal Wootton Bassett, Banbury Bulls ground out two vital points.

By Steve Smith
Monday, 11th November 2019, 11:56 am
Updated Monday, 11th November 2019, 1:58 pm
Jack Briggs takes a hit for Banbury Bulls at Royal Wootton Bassett. Photo: Simon Grieve
Jack Briggs takes a hit for Banbury Bulls at Royal Wootton Bassett. Photo: Simon Grieve

Matt Goode’s boys and the Wadworth 6x South West One East leaders couldn’t be separated in Saturday’s 6-6 draw which was heavily affected by the conditions.

Bulls made two changes to the side that beat Oxford Harlequins. Ed Berridge started at eight, having fully recovered from his injury sustained in the opening fixture, Ed Phillips began at ten with Tommy Gray moving to full-back.

It was clear the conditions were going to dominate the fixture and so it proved. Sustained heavy rain meant it wasn’t going to be a fast paced, flowing game on a good surface which held up really well considering the amount of rainfall.

The leaders had the best of the early chances with Joe Pettit knocking on five metres out with Tom Macdonald doing brilliantly to put in a last-ditch tackle to force the error. Bulls worked their way in to Wootton 22 following a fine run from Berridge but could not find a way through the home defence despite being a couple of metres from the try line.

The Banbury pack did a fantastic job and clearly had an advantage in the set-piece but a tough day was made harder when Ken Key was forced off for the remainder of the game with a calf strain.

Troy Cusack kicked the first points of the game after Bulls were penalised for being off their feet at the breakdown. Within five minutes Bulls levelled when Berridge won a penalty as Wootton were penalised for holding on and Phillips stepped up to add the three points.

Wootton nearly scored the opening try of the game but a foot in touch just short of the line prevented them scoring. Wootton regained the advantage though another Cusack penalty.

Phillips levelled again after Tom Eyston was taken out without the ball. The leaders went close but knocked-on over the try line after some good defence from Will Thurlow.

Both teams opened up in the closing stages of the game. Duncan Leese won a late penalty in his own 22 in stoppage-time but Bulls elected to kick the ball out and settle for a draw.

The conditions obviously played a big part but both teams played well and each had periods of sustained pressure and territory. Berridge continually looked Banbury’s biggest threat, running off the back of scrums and appears fully back to the fine form he displayed last season.