Banbury Bulls are just one victory away from clinching the Midlands Two West South title.
James Kerr’s boys won a thriller at Nuneaton Old Edwardians and one more win against Spartans at Bodicote Park this weekend will seal the title and automatic promotion.
But Bulls were pushed all the way before a 34-43 bonus-point victory to maintain their nine-point advantage.
Nuneaton went ahead following a Banbury secured a line-out on the hosts’ ten metre line and the forwards drove towards the 22. When the ball broke, the backs looked to go wide early but Sam Stoop’s was intercepted by the Nuneaton centre who ran in unopposed for a converted try.
Nuneaton quickly added a penalty before Bulls struck next when a 22 drop-out was not dealt with. Banbury secured the ball and worked the blind-side allowing George Grieve to hand-off tacklers and streak down the wing to score his first try.
Nuneaton’s hard running lines and big runners caused problems and they scored again following good first phase ball up the middle. The cover defence scrambled back in time but Nuneaton recycled well to go over for a converted try.
Banbury ended the half in better form and a line-out move inside the 22 saw Manu Paniagua come close. Recycling and working phases, Bulls built pressure before moving the ball to Stoop and his pass beat the defence for Joe Mills to canter in.
Stoop added the extras before Jed Boyle side-stepped his way into the 22. The forwards carried the ball hard deeper and Jacob Mills went over with Stoop putting his side ahead for the first time 19-17 up.
After the restart Bulls secured better ball and field position. The pack linked up well and James Page made yards up the field for the back line and Carl Daniels released Joe Mills who scored under the posts.
Stoop converted before Bulls scored again when the impressive Ian Isham went on a rampaging run, Wes Hallam took the ball deeper into the 22 and Chris Phillips went over from the resulting ruck.
Josh Deegan slipped a tackle on the 22 and skirted over for Stoop take the score on to 38-17. Poorly executed defence allowed Nuneaton a simple drive over and two more tries put them within four points of Bulls.
But in the last play of the game Simon Brand hacked the loose ball up field. Chasing his own kick Brand popped the ball to Grieve who beat the last man to go over the line for his second try.