Quins look very professional as they take Oxfordshire County Cup Final spoils.
However there was nothing amateur about the Bulls performance as they put on a fine display to round off an exceptional season.
Iffley Road Stadium, Oxford - Wednesday 7th May 2014
Match reporting by Bob Mitchelmore, action photos by Simon Grieve.
The Bulls were unable to claim the silverware, but they can take great credit for a brave and battling performance against a side who will be playing two leagues higher next season.
As has happened so often this season Banbury were facing a much bigger and heavier pack of forwards but tenacious tackling never allowed the Harlequins to dominate. With their backs being fed a stream of front foot possession it needed resolute defence from the Bulls, with centres James Heywood and Jimmy Manley to the forefront, to remain in the match.
From the kick-off the Harlequins monopolised both possession and territory but the Banbury defence held firm but eventually from a line out in the Bulls 22 the Harlequins no 8, Seissoni Toupou, who was outstanding all evening, powered over to score the opening try which was converted by Will Hilton.
Having gone behind the Bulls now found themselves winning more possession and a sharp break from flyhalf, Dan Tooth showed that the Harlequins defence could be breached. Playing with renewed confidence skipper Eddie Phillips shredded the Quins defence with a sharp break and chipping over the last defender looked odds on to score before he was taken out by a blatant late tackle which earned a yellow card. Whereas there was an argument for a penalty try to be awarded the referee deemed the offence worthy of only a penalty which Phillips had little difficulty in converting from in front of the posts.
The Bulls now had their tails up and looked to have taken the lead when a Quins backs move broke down with Jed Boyle gathering the loose ball to sprint 40 metres to the line. The referee awarded the try but with the touch judge intervening the try was disallowed for what the Banbury supporters deemed to be a very tight offside decision.
With the Quins holding a narrow 7-3 lead at the break the Bulls were well in the game and it was they that dominated the opening exchanges of the 2nd half, but a combination of handling errors and a tight Quins defence prevented any scores and with Phillips falling short with a penalty attempt the Quins with just about their first foray into the Banbury half for once managed to open up the Banbury defence and with a hint of a forward pass flyhalf Zac Norriss, another Quins player who impressed, was able to cross under the posts.
Hilton added the extras leaving the Bulls with a mountain to climb and when a series of mauls on the Banbury line yielded a further try, again converted the game was up for the Bulls. However to their great credit the Bulls dominated the closing stages going close on a number of occasions only to be denied by handling errors with the line beckoning.
Whilst no one could begrudge the Quins victory they were flattered by the margin and the largely home-grown young Bulls side can reflect on a fine season and look forward with confidence to the next campaign