Banbury Bulls emerged 27-7 victors against Pinley in Saturday’s Midlands Two West South fixture at Bodicote Park.
With a personal haul of 22 points, it was skipper Eddie Phillips who guided Bulls to victory in an often niggly encounter against an abrasive Pinley side. But they failed to gain the all important try bonus point and are now four points behind leaders Old Laurentians.
It was Phillips who put early points on the board with his first of five penalties but Pinley responded with the opening try when centre Harry Marks ran through to score under the posts, Andy Taylor adding the simple conversion.
Bulls dominated territory but a solid Pinley defence kept their line intact and it was left to Phillips to punish the visitors’ ill-discipline with a brace of penalties to nudge the Bulls into a narrow lead.
In the closing moments Banbury won a turnover deep in their own half and a well judged miss-pass from fly-half Lionel Byrne put Carl Daniels into space. He made good ground and fed the supporting Dan Tooth who outpaced the defence to score in the corner.
The early exchanges of the second half saw Bulls on the front foot and further ill discipline from Pinley led to a number of infringements which earned a yellow card for fly-half Leighton Clarke and Phillips kicked the resulting penalty.
Bulls continued to press and from a five metre scrum the dominant pack paved the way for Phillips to cross for a try which he converted. With little seasonal goodwill on show the game was marred by several off-the-ball incidents which cumulated in Dan Tooth being shown a red card for retaliation in a confrontation with the second row forward Jack Dyson, who saw yellow.
Pinley took advantage to mount a series of attacks but the home defence remained firm with Daniels making a magnificent tackle when the visitors looked certain to score and it was Phillips, with his fifth penalty, who completed the scoring.