Back-to-back victories have moved Banbury Bulls up the South West One East table.
Bulls returned from Reading Abbey with an 18-10 victory that was ultimately settled by two pieces of individual skill from captain Ian Isham and vice-captain Ed Phillips
In an open game, both teams had opportunities to add to their try tally but some great scrambling defence and poor decisions made for a close contest.
Bulls started on the front foot. Alex Stevenson, coming in at fly half in for the unavailable John Fox, penned Abbey well back into their own half with his left boot.
Bulls were able to use the field position well with ball in hand and built multiple phases. That saw them make good ground and get deep into Abbey’s 22.
Isham ran a hard line at the heart of the home side’s defence and left a defender chasing his shadow to go under the posts. Ed Phillips added the conversion.
Bulls continued to play the territory game and increased their lead with a simple penalty from Ed Phillips after Jacob Mills was tackled early without the ball when he was lining up to score.
The last play of the first half saw Ed Phillips miss an easy penalty.
Abbey started the second half strongly and continued to use their big strong runners effectively, turning pressure into points via a penalty.
But Bulls stuck to their game plan of playing rugby in the Abbey half. The dangerous Abbey full back’s pace was matched by the impressive Alex Gandy who made several try saving tackles.
Ed Phillips restored the visitors ten-point advantage before creating Banbury’s second try. He attacked on the short side just short of the line, the defence rushed up too quickly and left space behind. The scrum half grubbered through and centre Jack Briggs dived over the line.
Abbey received two yellow cards but were able to prevent Bulls from adding to their lead.
When their sin-binned players returned Abbey came back at the visitors. Under pressure, Bulls received a yellow card for trying to slow the ball down in their own 22.
But they continued to defend well until Chris Phillips tackled a player too early and prevented a try scoring opportunity. This time the referee awarded a yellow card and a penalty try to make it 18-10.
But Ed Phillips turned the ball over twice five metres out from their line and Bulls retained the ball with some patient play from the backs and forwards alike.
Bulls are now just six points behind fourth-placed Royal Wootton Bassett and they entertain the Wiltshire at Bodicote Park this Saturday.