Shottery 34 Banbury Vets 14

For the second week running, it was the pack that set a solid platform for a winning performance in the first fixture between these sides in many years.

Two minutes into the game, it looked as though it was going to be a very different outcome as Banbury centre, Greig Lake, ghosted through a flapping defence to score under the posts; the try was converted by Roy Wood. Within five minutes Shottery were level, as Huw George picked out Olly Scholefield at the front of the line just outside the Banbury 22 and the pack drove Richie Evans over in the corner from distance. Returning fly half Jamie Rendall added the extra points with a great kick.

Banbury were keen to move the ball out wide at every opportunity and use their large centre row pairing as a battering ram. Eventually this tactic paid off as centre Tony Bennett burst through several tackles to score, with Wood again adding the extra points.

It did not take long for Shottery to get level again. The new look half back pairing of Dom Skinner and Rendall were using the clean ball generated by a now rampaging pack to pin Banbury back in their 22 with some great kicks from hand. Under pressure, the Banbury scrum was driven off their own ball. Skinner capitalised on this by darting over for the try, which was converted by Rendall.

With half time approaching, a Rendall penalty put Shottery in front for the first time in the game, a lead they were not going to surrender. Almost immediately from the restart the Shottery pack drove forward with surging runs from Steve Payne and Simon Lee. Quick ball was recycled and good hands from the back line put Stu Watson in space. The aging winger opened his legs and showed his class, outsprinting the defence to score in the corner and give Shottery a 22 – 14 lead.

The third quarter did not result in any further scores, but the relentless pressure in the set piece was visibly knocking the stuffing out of Banbury. Another catch and drive at the lineout was moved wide and quick hands from Matt Aston gave Rendall the time and space to score his first try for the club.

Entering the final 10 minutes, Shottery welcomed back club captain Eugene Hissey, fit again after injuring himself on the first day of the season. With the Banbury scrum now going backwards at breakneck speed, Skinner scored his second try of the day, with Kev Costa adding the conversion with what could best be described as a toe poke. With Shottery pressing for another score, the final whistle brought the game to an end.

After the game skipper Lee said “This game was all about the dominance of our pack giving the backs a regular supply of good ball to work with. Merry Christmas everybody”. Shottery’s next game will be the traditional Boxing Day encounter with Stratford, when there will no doubt be much mince pies, mistletoe and wine on offer.