BANBURY edged a tight Oxfordshire derby to beat Grove 17-8 at Cane Lane and begin 2017 by extending their unbeaten run to seven games.
Replacement Tom Burman’s try and 12 points from the boot of scrum half Ed Phillips saw the Bulls clam victory in an evenly-matched South West 1 East clash.
It turned out to be a predictably close and physical affair, but the visitors’ ability to punish Grove’s indiscipline proved the difference.
Banbury led 6-3 after 16 minutes, Phillips kicking two penalties and home fly half David Maryon slotting a drop goal.
- ON THE CHARGE: Banbury captain Ian Isham hands off Grove’s James Marshall Picture: Steve Wheeler
The hosts began to work their way into the game and only great work from Phillips prevented No 8 Rory Gratwohl from touching down after a catch and drive.
The same move paid off on 32 minutes, though, as replacement Joe Bellinger twisted to dot down for an unconverted try.
Banbury hit back immediately, with Phillips kicking a penalty, before they took a 14-8 lead into the break as Burman profited from full back Luke Mathews’s error to race over.
The second half proved a tight affair, with Grove enjoying more territory, but the visitors matched the hosts up front.
The physicality of the game was further emphasised, when Bulls’ lock Cash Chilvers was forced off with a broken nose.
- TRY: Replacement forward Joe Bellinger turns to dot down and make it 8-6 to Grove in the first half Picture: Steve Wheeler
Banbury had a chance to extend their lead on 67 minutes, but Phillips missed a penalty.
And the visitors thought they had scored what would have been a match-winning try with eight minutes to go, when lock Jacob Mills, playing as a makeshift winger, crossed in the corner.
But it was disallowed as centre Matt Goode had played a forward pass in the build-up.
That did not deter the visitors and they won a penalty in the last minute, which Phillips slotted to make sure of victory.