Banbury Bulls producing a storming second half display to make it three wins on the spin in South West One East.
The outstanding Joe Mills scored two tries as Bulls beat Royal Wootton Bassett 38-28 at Bodicote Park on Saturday.
After a shaky start, Bulls kept in touch during their worst period and finished the first half just ahead. That set up a superb second half performance which saw them take the bonus point win.
Wotton Bassett started strongly while Bulls struggled to make any inroads against their defence. But when the visitors had the ball they did not suffer from such problems.
The home side gifted several penalties to the Royals and they took advantage. The ball was recycled on the right and Banbury’s static defence saw the visitors make easy work of their overlap and score in the corner.
Bulls began to get more of a foothold and they attacked with more meaning, giving them field position of their own. When the visitors gave away two penalties Ed Phillips put his side ahead.
A good chance went begging when Bulls failed to keep hold of the ball with a two-man overlap. Chasing the try they deserved, Bulls were caught out when Wotton Bassett intercepted to regain the lead.
Two more penalties from the reliable boot of Phillips made it 12-10 to Bulls before Bassett added a penalty to close the gap to one point in a tight encounter.
The last action of the half saw Bulls cross the whitewash for the first time.
They recycled the ball deep in the opposition 22 and, after several attempts of picking and going around the rucks, Chris Phillips forced his way over. Ed Phillips added the conversion as Bulls turned it around to lead 19-13 at halftime.
Bulls let their lead slip shortly after the restart as Royals scored a converted try to lead 20-19. But the try of the game in an enthralling encounter went Banbury’s way.
From a 35 metre scrum, the forwards gave their backs a solid platform. Sam Stoop missed-out Jack Briggs to find Matt Goode, Josh Deegan made a great line off his wing and as he tried to wriggle free Mills steamed through to score.
Phillips added the extras to give Bulls a 26-20 lead before they scored a fortuitous third try. Stoop, with a lack of forward options, looked for field position and kicked high and long Deegan chased it down, the ball popped up into the winger’s arms, he was hauled back but fed Mills for his second try.
Wotton Bassett added a penalty but Bulls made ground at will. Having reached the opposition 22, Ed Phillips sniped around a ruck and touched down under posts and converted his own try to give Bulls a 38-23 lead and a four-try bonus point.
Back-chat from Ed Phillips saw a penalty reversed and, after sustained pressure, Sam Mills received a yellow card. Bassett scored again but a crucial conversion was missed and Bulls held out for a deserved win.