Banbury Bulls made it seven wins on the spin despite a below-par performance at Grove.
Ed Phillips scored all the points in Saturday’s 16-10 victory as Bulls consolidated second spot in Wadworth 6X South West One.
The referee set the tone of the game at Cane Lane when George Grieve was shown a yellow for the first penalty of the game. Penalised for not rolling away after a tackle, Grove took full advantage by opening the scoring when Steve Dixey picked up from the base of a ruck and dived over from close range.
Phillips reduced the arrears after Grove were penalised for coming in at the side. Twice in quick succession Phillips took a quick penalty but was tackled almost immediately each time and the visiting supporters were surprised not to see a yellow card produced and a penalty try awarded.
Phillips kicked the penalty to edge Bulls ahead and they soon piled on the pressure in the opposition 22. The penalty count kept rising for Grove and eventually Josh Tyler saw yellow for collapsing a rolling maul.
Thirty seconds later Pat Wiltshire joined him in the sin-bin for not rolling away and Bulls made the extra numbers count. Sam Stoop was stopped narrowly short but the ball was quickly recycled and Phillips darted his way over from close range before adding the conversion.
Clearly, Grove had watched Bulls last week as this playing with 13 men seemed to be working.
Sam Tokelove made a brilliant break down the right side-line going from his own half to inside Banbury’s 22. Grove recycled quickly, the ball was spun out to Luke Matthews who chipped to the opposite corner and Benny Davies won the footrace to touchdown in the corner.
The second half certainly wasn’t a classic but there were some very nervous moments for the Bulls. Jimmy Manley’s ability to hold up the man and ball was crucial and a real momentum shifter when Grove were trying to get back into the game.
Steve Dixey got a yellow card for Grove after taking Jimmy Manley out off the ball. Phillips kicked the resulting penalty to increase the lead to 16-10 before Nick Pratt also got a yellow for Bulls much to his surprise.
Grove went close a couple times late on but the Banbury defence managed to hold on for a hard-fought victory. It was not the performance supporters have come to expect from Bulls these days but they got the win.