Cracknell’s cracking tries put holders on way to final

Banbury Bulls' Freddie Cracknell and Simon Brand keep their eyes on the ball against Chinnor Falcons at Bodicote Park
Banbury Bulls' Freddie Cracknell and Simon Brand keep their eyes on the ball against Chinnor Falcons at Bodicote Park

Banbury Bulls took a massive step towards retaining the Oxon Knockout Cup.

The holders progressed to the final with a dominant 35-5 victory over Chinnor Falcons in Saturday’s semi-final thanks to a first half brace of tries from the flying Freddie Cracknell.

Bulls went into Saturday’s semi-final on the back of two South West One East defeats. But they bounced back to book their place in the final with a comprehensive victory.

Bulls now await the result of the other semi-final to find out if they will face Bicester or Oxford University Greyhounds in the final at Iffley Road.

Bulls started brightly at Bodicote Park where Ed Phillips kicked two penalties early in the first half. Those penalties settled the nerves and were followed by Cracknell’s first try.

Chinnor looked to make yards with a set play around half way. But Cracknell read the move and intercepted to run in untouched under the post and perform a cheeky swallow dive.

Phillips easily converted as Bulls took an early 13-0 lead and Cracknell completed his brace shortly afterwards.

An up-and-under was sent deep into Chinnor territory, where the visitors’ number eight got turned around in the bright sunshine and failed to gather the ball. Cracknell leaped to take the ball as the erratic bounce evaded the scrambling cover defence.

Phillips converted from the same spot as where he had missed an earlier penalty, taking the score to 20-0 and Bulls were comfortably in control of the contest.

Chinnor hit back with an unconverted try, ending the first half 20-5 in arrears.

Despite the second half being more disjointed and less fluent than the first period, Bulls managed to keep the pressure on at key moments and score three more tries, all unconverted by Phillips.

A penalty from Phillips kicked to the corner led to a successful catch from the line-out and a driving maul over the try line.

However, the pack’s delight was somewhat muted when they discovered that it was fly-half Jack Briggs at the back who dotted down!

Exploiting some confusion around a ruck five metres from Chinnor’s line, scrum-half Phillips stripped the ball from his opposite number and had enough strength to wrestle himself over the line, taking several scrambling defenders with him.

Following a period of sustained pressure, captain Ian Iaham completed the victory by crashing over after peeling off from another ruck within five metres of the line.