HENLEY BULLS ground out a hard-earned victory to progress to the semi-finals of the Oxfordshire Cup in the
HENLEY BULLS ground out a hard-earned victory to progress to the semi-finals of the Oxfordshire Cup in the driving rain at Grove last Saturday.
Both teams appeared determined to play a high paced game despite the slippery conditions although on the Bulls’ part much of their attempt to play as expansively as possible faltered due to the continual intervention of the match officials for a range of minor offences eventually resulting in Paul Bowen taking a forced break for a tip-tackle.
Just prior to Bowen’s sin-bin Grove had taken the lead with a try under posts as a reward for some unrelenting attacks around the fringes of the breakdown. The conversion put them 7-0 up.
Although Grove made life difficult at scrum time throughout the game with their heavier pack it was the Bulls’ line-out dominance that created the platform for them to respond although reduced in numbers.
Ben Palmer, kicking accurately, put them in touching distance of the try line and after several attempts to drive for the line Grove ran out of options for defence and on the second occasion they pulled the maul to ground the referee was under the posts for a penalty try. Palmer landed his kick to square the scores.
Grove pressed again and some sensible kicking to relieve the Bulls 22 of the clutter from Jack Wiggins and Martin Nutt ensured the Bulls went in at half-time with the score even. Four minutes prior to half-time the Bulls were punished again by the match officials when Cecil MacCarthy was sin binned as he was pushed on to a breakdown whilst retreating.
Grove sustained the pressure after the break and soon gained by landing a short penalty to restore the lead at 10-7. The remaining 30 minutes ebbed and flowed in terms of field position but Louis Flynn’s side showed a steely resolve in defence and proved to be the more clinical in possession.
Tom Bartlett was a pillar in the line-out for Luke Watts to aim for and man-of-the-match Scott White was the recipient of his clean ball at the rear of the maul to drive the Bulls over the line on the right flank. The blustery conditions had hindered Palmer on two previous penalty attempts to balance the score but on this occasion from a wide angle he drilled his kicked between the posts for a 14-10 lead.
The remaining 15 minutes saw Grove suffer a sin-bin and whilst reduced to 14 men the Bulls pressed home their advantage as a series of tight drives from right to left close to the Grove line was finished off by Cecil MacCarthy with four minutes to play. Palmer scored the conversion.