Monday, 23 November 2020

Bulls halted as title-chasing Chinnor complete double

HENLEY BULLS went down to defeat at home to runaway Shield Division 2 North league leaders Chinnor on Saturday.

HENLEY BULLS went down to defeat at home to runaway Shield Division 2 North league leaders Chinnor on Saturday.

An error-ridden first five minutes and an early defensive miscommunication in the Bulls’ midfield allowed Chinnor the opening try at Regatta Meadows.

The Chinnor centre cut inside the Henley centre pairing and planted the ball under the posts to ease the pressure on place kicker Pickles, who converted to give Chinnor a seven-point lead.

Having made several appearances from the bench, Matt Thomas made his first full outing at lock in place of James Winterbottom.

Having suffered the early wake-up call and looking vulnerable for the opening 10 minutes, the Bulls built up momentum and began to show the form that has resulted in a four-game winning run. Adam Lubbock launched a 45-metre penalty which sailed over bringing the Bulls to within four points but this was cancelled out by Pickles from the restart as the Bulls infringed.

The Bulls lost Simon Perry to injury following a huge midfield tackle. With the Bulls in the ascendancy for much of the remainder of the first half, they remained unable to break down Chinnor’s defence and frustratingly gave Pickles a chance to stretch the visitors’ lead to 13-3 with a further penalty against the flow of play.

With five minutes of the first half remaining the Bulls’ efforts paid dividends as their improved support and work at the breakdown provided the backs a chink of light through which Rory Lillington forced a hand to touch down. Lubbock failed with the wide conversion but added a penalty to reduce the arrears to 13-11.

Much of the second period was spent with the Bulls in possession, Cannock and Downing carrying well but stifled by Chinnor’s efforts until they lapsed in discipline allowing Lubbock to convert a penalty to give the Bulls the lead for the first time in the game at 14-13.

There were impressive performances from the Bulls’ front row whose mobility provided both continuity and rigid defence around the breakdown.

Chinnor enjoyed much less possession than in previous encounters but still remained threatening as always when they did have the ball, showing why they are league leaders with a 100 per cent record.

Chinnor battled to repel several Bulls forays into their territory with captain Neil Baggett and Adie Gillespie testing the visitors’ armour but a rare knock-on in contact from the Bulls allowed Chinnor a chance to weave through a Bulls defence unable to scramble back from their attacking position and score a try to restore the lead which Pickles converted.

Chinnor did test the Bulls later in the half but the hosts’ defence held out with huge tackles from Lubbock and Baggett proving decisive. Baggett’s tackle resulted in a shoulder injury ending his activity for the day.

Although Lubbock was afforded two further attempts from penalties from marginal areas the Bulls couldn’t find the telling pass and eventually lost despite playing the majority of rugby in Chinnor’s territory.

Henley Bulls: Steventon, Fuller, Penny, Thomas, Cannock, Crossland, Stembridge (Hayes, 56 mins), Downing, Drake, Lubbock, Gillespie, Turner, Lillington, Perry (Sheehan, 15 mins), Baggett. Replacement also used: Shek.

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