In front of a healthy partisan – Banbury dominated – crowd on Thursday night at Iffley Road, the Greyhounds put up a sterling effort against the Cup Holders, but eventually came up just short in their quest to win their second Oxfordshire County Cup title.
It was the cup holders, Banbury, who started strongly, the Greyhounds naturally rusty having not played together for more than 6 weeks, and were rewarded with a try from their winger Josh Deegan converted by the scrum half Ed Philips to take a 7 points lead after just 10 minutes. As the game entered the second quarter, the Hounds began to get a foothold in the game and a well-constructed catch and drive line-out on the Banbury 22, resulted in hooker Noah Miller being driven over the line. Unfortunately, fly-half Tom Dyer was off target with the conversion, so the holder retained a 2 point lead going into the interval.
The second half started much the same as the first and once again it was Banbury who got on the scoreboard first when concerted pressure was finished with a try by replacement centre Jack Briggs, Philips once again being on target with the extras. Banbury were now two scores ahead and if the Greyhounds were to have any chance of claiming victory, they needed to be x to score with the clock ticking over the 60 minute mark. So up stepped Australian back-row forward James Beaufils, who scored the try of the match from fully 50 meters, when he beat numerous defenders, with pace and swerve to dot down with aplomb under the posts, Dyer’s conversion narrowed the gap to just 2 points and it was very much game on! As one would expect of the cup holders, Banbury were not going to give up the trophy easily and with fly-half Sam Stoop kicking for position and centre Matt Goode making ground with ball in hand, they put the pressure on the Greyhounds defence which held firm until eventually conceding a penalty in front of the posts which Phillips duly converted to put the holders 5 points ahead. Under the cup regulations, the Greyhounds would be crowned champions if they could level the scores at 17 points all, as they would have scored three tries to two, but despite several half breaks they couldn’t quite finish off what they started and the holders defence scrambled to deny the Hounds a clear scoring opportunity and eventually time ran out to see Banbury hang on to defend their title with a 17 points to 12 victory. Experienced Banbury centre Matt Goode was deservedly named the ‘Ron Grimshaw Man of the Match’ by the Oxford Mail reporter Jack Johnson.
Despite the loss, their third in the county final, this group of young university players can take great heart form not only this performance, but the season as a whole and can look forward to the 2017/18 campaign with much optimism.
Team James Calderwood, Noah Miller, Ben Parker, Graeme MacGilchrist, Ollie Adams, James Beaufils, William Thornton, John Aaron Henry, Tom Kershaw, Tom Dyer, Daniel Barley, James Povey, Joshua Stickland, Tom Hammond, Robbie Fraser
Subs Kyle Grant, Valentine Taylor, Sebastian Haddock, Angus Livingstone
Scores Miller (1T), Beaufils (1T), Dyer (1C)