Banbury came through their toughest challenge so far with a hard fought 21-19 victory at Earlsdon in Saturday’s Midlands Two West South fixture.
In heavy conditions, the leaders looked to keep the home side pinned deep in their own half with a good kicking game. Trying to apply pressure, Bulls forced a penalty in the Earldon 22 which captain Ed Phillips converted.
Bulls kept to their game plan and used the kicking game well but moved the ball when the opportunity came. The opening try arrived when Banbury’s backs made good yards on the blindside, a pass went astray but a hacked kick was scooped up by Josh Deegan who crashed over in the corner.
Earlsdon’s pack put Bulls under pressure at the scrum which told when the visitors were unable to deal with an attack around the corner and Earlsdon’s flanker crashed over.
Earlsdon’s foothold at the scrum saw Bulls concede penalties and led to a period of ill discipline as the home side made easy yards up the pitch, taking a 12-8 lead.
Although under pressure at the scrum, Banbury’s pack were on top in other areas after the restart. An effective line-out saw provided a solid platform for the backs to work with and Matt Goode went over from a good move. Sam Stoop converted to put Bulls back in front at 12-15.
Earlsdon came back with another converted try to set up a tense finish. The Bulls’ pack started to apply pressure winning penalties and making yards with effective driving line-outs.
The pressure resulted in numerous penalties being conceded by the home side and replacement fly half Alex Stevenson converted one of them.
With the clock running down, Bulls trailed by a single point. Both teams tried to establish a strong kicking game in the wet conditions but it was Banbury’s that was more effective.
Controlled kicking saw Bulls apply pressure across the pitch and good work from the forwards and backs forced another penalty which Stevenson kicked.
Having finally got their noses in front again, Bulls produced some sterling defensive work and high work rate which snuffed out Earlsdon at every attack as they held on to take the points.