Banbury 17 - 45 Whitchurch
Brief Bulls highlights overshadowed by well-drilled visitors
Banbury Bulls once again found themselves on the receiving end of a comprehensive 45-16 defeat as they entertained Whitchurch at Bodicote Park on Saturday.
Banbury once again made numerous changes to their team in what has been a constant changing squad throughout the season. Chris Phillips stepped forward to fill in as prop as last minute unavailabilities saw changes to the team the day before the match, and Dan Boys returned from a fractured leg to take Phillips' place in the back row.
Whitchurch, who currently sit mid-table, started brightly despite their long journey down from Staffordshire and their organisation and disruption at the breakdown area made life difficult for the home side. The Whitchurch fly-half was prominent with his good quality kicking game that consisently pinned Banbury back into their own half. Powerful driving close to the breakdown from the Whitchurch forwards combined with some strong running saw the visitors score three unanswered tries in a first half that was largley forgettable from a Banbury perspective, who saw fly-half Pete Papenfus kick a solitary penalty goal.
And it was not long into the second half before Whitchurch claimed their bonus point try as the better drilled team kept Banbury under pressure. Further scores were to follow for Whitchurch including one scrum pushover try claimed against the head. It was not until the 60th minute that Banbury finally started to click as a team when some strong midfield running saw the Bulls put the Whitchurch defence on the back foot. The visitors responded to this pressure by conceding several penalties in quick succession, which Banbury looked to run quickly. Making ground into the visitor's 22, the Bulls attacked up the left flank before switching the ball back to the right. There centre James Heywood broke through the covering defence to go over to score and Papenfus added the extras.
Immediately from the restart Banbury struck again. Phillips claimed the catch midway in the Banbury half and made good ground and there followed an excellent display of support running and offloading by both backs and forwards that saw second row Paul Saville streak away to score. Again Papenfus was successful with the conversion, but this was to be the high point of the game for Banbury.
With the clock ticking down the breakdown area was allowed to become something of a free-for-all by the referee and it soon, unsurprisingly, erupted. The upshot saw a Whitchurch prop sin-binned and Banbury replacement hooker Liam Stratford red-carded for headbutting.
Now down to 14 men for the rest of the game, Banbury continued to struggle to contain the organised Whitchurch team and it was fitting for them to have the final say. As the Whitchurch captain made a break down the right wing he looked destined to score, but some outstanding tracking back by Matt Brock saw the experienced second row make a superb tackle. However with support on hand, Whitchurch were able to add score and add a final flourish with this last play of the game leaving them victors by 45-17.
Banbury next welcome Stratford-upon-Avon to Bodicote Park on Saturday 26th, kick-off 3pm.