Leaders are too strong as they dent Bulls' promotion hopes
Banbury Bulls' promotion hopes took a hit when they were beaten by leaders Old Centralians.
Bulls recovered well from a sluggish start but went down 37-24 in Saturday's Wadworth 6X South West One East fixture.
James Jennings returned from injury but Bulls will be without the services of Ed Berridge for some time who picked up an ankle injury in training.
Old Centralians got off to a blistering start and were quickly in to an early 10-0 lead with tries from big forwards Sam Preece and Mike Mathers. Ed Phillips reduced the deficit with a penalty after Alex Caviezel Cox was taken out after kicking the ball behind following a break.
Rob Jones scored a try from deep for the home side to put Old Centralians firmly back in control. Bulls turned the ball over on the halfway line and Old Centralians punished the mismatch in numbers for a try in the corner.
Phillips saw yellow after he picked up a number of first half penalties. Old Centralians took full advantage of the extra man and some poor defending from Bulls allowed Robert Winchle to secure a first half try bonus point.
Despite being a man down Bulls reduced the deficit before halftime with a fine solo score from Tommy Gray. The fly-half throwing a dummy before skipping his way through the covering defence for a score out to the left. Duncan Leese took over the kicking duties to make it 22-10 at halftime.
Gray was at the heart of Banbury’s next try as well. A great burst and one-handed offload released Keiran Fitzgibbon who sprinted his way over from the edge of the 22. Phillips was back on and added the extras.
Old Centralians made it a two-score game with good work again from their forwards. The leaders have some big boys who are very well drilled when it comes to set-pieces, it might not be the most entertaining rugby in the world it’s certainly effective.
Another turnover from Bulls gifted Old Centralians a try as Soloman Farrer sprinted over for a score in the corner to make it 34-17.
Tom Macdonald kept Bulls in the game after Tom Eyston released him down the right wing before the flanker dived over, and Phillips converted.
Liam Hemming kicked a penalty after Bulls were penalised for not releasing. The Old Centralians centre made sure he took all his allocated time with a kick straight in front of the sticks to make it 37-24.
The win was beyond Bulls but a late try would secure a losing bonus point as well as a try bonus point. Bulls battled until the end but Old Centralians are masters of retaining possession and a promising break ended with a turnover at the full-time whistle summed up their afternoon.