Cracknell brace earns Bulls derby victory on final day

Banbury Bulls' Matt Goode is tackled by Witney's Matt Webb
Banbury Bulls' Matt Goode is tackled by Witney's Matt Webb

Banbury Bulls cemented a top six finish in the South West One East table with a final day victory over Witney.

James Kerr’ side gained revenge for their opening day derby defeat with a 17-15 success at Bodicote Park where a brace of tries from Freddie Cracknell and one from Giles Sarr was enough to clinch the game.

A firm, quick pitch made for a fast paced game which bordered on frantic at times but it was the visitors who were first on the scoreboard after Bulls failed to deal with the kick-off and found themselves under immediate pressure. Managing to deflect Witney’s initial attacks, the pressure final told as a penalty was conceded and kicked by Henry Lamb.

Banbury’s reply came after they worked phases and retained the ball, fly half Sam Stoop sent a kick diagonally over the Witney defence with a deft touch. Flying winger Cracknell galloped on to the ball and with an even defter touch nudged the ball down the touchline without breaking stride to go over.

Joe Mills failed with the conversion and Witney soon regained the lead. Getting the ball to the Banbury 22, centre Matt Clark stepped his way through the Banbury defence and cantered in to score.

Bulls got back in front when Witney halted a driving maul inside their 22. But that enabled Stoop to engineer the move when he threaded the ball to Sarr who found space to go under the posts and Mills added the conversion for a 12-8 halftime lead.

The second half continued in the same tone as the first period, albeit with no more scores until the hour mark as both teams had attacks repelled and their opponents took charge.

Bulls broke the stalemate when veteran centre Matt Goode cut a good line back towards a ruck and broke through. Goode created enough space to slip the ball to Cracknell who sped across the line for A 17-8 lead.

With the last play of the game, Witney gained a scrum in a dangerous position in Banbury’s 22. A solid effort from the visitors’ pack twisted Banbury’s back row away from the point of attack, allowing scrum half Gareth Campbell to dart over and Lamb added the conversion.