Banbury Bulls’ slim chances of making the Midlands Two West South play-offs were all but ended in Saturday’s 14-10 defeat at Old Coventrians.
As has happened on a number of occasions this season, Bulls were out-muscled up front, allowing the bigger and heavier Old Coventrians forwards to dominate the set-pieces and with it, possession and territory.
The home forwards were quick to demonstrate their dominance with early pressure yielding an Alex Telfer penalty. Skipper Eddie Phillips levelled with a penalty but Old Coventrians, pinning Banbury deep in their own half, forced another penalty which was kicked by Telfer.
Despite a brave defensive effort from Bulls the home side finally managed to score the first try when good ball retention and recycling created the space for Matty Fielder to score in the corner.
Bulls prospects looked to be flimsy especially and on the stroke of halftime Josh Deegan crossed in the corner only for the try to be disallowed through a marginal forward pass.
The second half followed the pattern of the first with Bulls scrummage under considerable pressure but, while having to live of scraps, the Banbury backs showed that they were more than capable of creating opportunities running the ball at every opportunity.
Their ambition was rewarded when fullback Joe Mills fielded a kick near his own line and initiated a counter attack, clever inter passing with Josh Deegan took play deep into the Old Coventrians half and with the supporting Mickey Fox providing the link the direction of play was switched giving Carl Daniels a clear run to the line.
Phillips added the conversion to put Bulls back within a point of Old Coventrians but the home forwards denied Banbury possession and extended their lead with a Telfer penalty. Bulls found it difficult to get out of their own half but with the game deep into injury-time they managed to get their hands on the ball and good handling gave Jed Boyle space on the wing.
Desperate cover stopped the winger just short of the line but Bulls applied intense pressure on the home line forcing a succession of penalties. However, a lack of composure with the line in sight proved to be Bulls undoing as eventually they lost possession and with it the game.