Berkswell returned to league action this weekend after qualifying for the semi finals of the Warwickshire Cup the weekend before. Steve Wake reports on another success in Berkswell’s battle to overcome the handicap of a 15 point deduction from their 2011/12 league campaign, a punishment meted out by the league for a pitch battle that errupted during a home game last season.
Midlands West Division 2 (South)
Berkswell & Balsall – 19 Banbury – 8
An opening try from Berkswell’s flying winger Phil Allport and two penalty-tries were enough to give the Bs victory, but not enough for an additional league bonus point. Berkswell found their performance a little flat throughout the game, as they came up against a Banbury side who had obviously improved since their previous meeting in October. Neither side could be accused of a lack of effort shortage of effort, but handling errors and poor ball retention left any concerted pressure in the opposition half lacking.
Despite overall dominance in the first half Berkswell turned around at the break only nine points ahead. Banbury came back stronger after the break without putting the result in any great doubt, although Berkswell did have some nervous second half moments.
B’s kicked off down the slope exerting early pressure and Berkswell were on top in the scrums from the first few minutes onwards, despite facing a giant front eight. Berkswell spent the first ten minutes camped in the Banbury half and it was little surprise when they finally opened the scoring with an Allport try on twelve minutes. A difficult conversion dropped just short.
Banbury then responded with some pressure of their own taking the ball forward and releasing their centres at speed. Gradually Banbury edged their way into opposition territory, but always found the B’s cover able to keep them out. The game was now more open with both sides looking to run the ball. Pressure from Berkswell produced a series of phases near the visitor’s line and the B’s pack notched the second try as they drove a scrum over the Banbury try-line, the visiting eight breaking offside to counter. The referee signalled a penalty try and Sam Bignall kicked the straightforward conversion for a 12-0 lead after 26 minutes.
Again Banbury followed a score against them with pressure in the Berkswell half. The home side again seemed to be dealing with the visitor’s forays without conceding, but a silly offside, for straying in front of a Bignall clearance kick, gave Banbury the chance to kick three points, which they took. The remainder of the first half play was scruffy with B’s using long kicks to pin Banbury into their own half, but without the necessary control to add to their lead.
Both sides were poor at the start of the second half. Any fluent play was usually ended by an unforced error and neither side were playing particularly well. Banbury were seeing more of the ball now that they were playing downhill and, on the hour, had a try disallowed for a forward pass, when it looked easier for the man in possession to go over. This set up a brief period of play where the visitors were in command. Berkswell’s defence were under pressure, but held firm. Then, in the 69th minute, B’s virtually sealed the game with their third try. A flowing cross-field move found Cameron Hunt free and his pace took him clear of the first line of defence, he chipped the ball over the full-back and into the in-goal area but was just beaten to the ball by the Banbury right-wing. The referee gave Berkswell a five meter scrum and the forwards did the rest, marching the visiting pack backwards and once again – as in the first-half – the move was illegally halted, before Galpin could touchdown. Berkswell’s second penalty try was the result, with another Bignall conversion.
Once more Banbury exerted ‘post-concessionary’ pressure and within two minutes they scored a try of their own. The ball was spun wide to the right where their winger managed to squeeze in the corner, despite a cover tackle almost putting him in to touch. The touchline conversion was wide. Berkswell, knowing a fourth try would provide a bonus league point, spent virtually all of the remaining eight minutes in Banbury territory, but to the credit of the visitor’s defence, they couldn’t engineer a way through.
Phil Allport (1)
Penalty Tries (2)
Sam Bignall (2)