Chippenham lose by a single point, again!
It was a pleasure to welcome league leaders Banbury and both teams contributed to a cracking match.....
Chippenham welcomed Banbury to Allington Fields on Saturday afternoon, looking to bounce back from last week’s narrow defeat to Wimborne. Banbury had picked up two comprehensive wins from their first two games, and were sure to offer a stern test to the hosts. With the sun out and not a rain cloud in sight, the conditions were perfect for both teams to produce an exciting spectacle for the local and travelling fans.
Chippenham kicked off first, but this was to be the last touch of the ball by a player in black and white for a while, with the early possession belonging exclusively to Banbury. This early pressure led to Chippenham conceding a penalty in a very kickable position, with the visitors taking a 3-0 lead after ten minutes.
The first try of the game was claimed by Chippenham however, somewhat against the run of play. A searching kick deep into the Banbury 22 by Bradley Doggett gave the Chippenham outside backs the perfect opportunity to pounce on the covering defence, forcing a turnover. Quick thinking by captain Ryan Surry put Charlie Palmer away down the right side, who somehow managed to stay in play despite the attentions of four opposing defenders, and offload back to Surry who ran in unopposed to score. No. 8 Sam Saunders added the extras to make the score 7-3 to the hosts.
Palmer turned from creator to finisher for the next try, with Ed Hendy laying the groundwork for the score with a heavy tackle and strong breakdown work allowing the ball to be played to Palmer, who this time was not stopped on his way to the line. 12-3 to Chippenham.
Just as the home side looked to be getting into their stride, Banbury hit back with a try in the corner, with their winger finishing after a period of concerted pressure on the Chippenham line. 12-8 to Chippenham. The hosts got the final score of the half, however, with a powerful burst down the touchline and then offload by Doggett allowing Jacob Unwin to saunter over the line.
17-8 to Chippenham at the break.
Banbury started the second period much in the same vein as they had the first, with strong carries from their large forward pack denting the Chippenham defence, leading to another kickable penalty which they duly converted. 17-11 to Chippenham.
The home side struck back almost immediately. A long miss pass from fly half Lewis Surry to Unwin set the centre barrelling towards the Banbury line, with a sharp step inside leaving the covering defence floundered. Saunders converted. 24-11 to Chippenham.
Banbury, with the introduction of fresh legs from the bench, took control of the next twenty minutes of the match. Lack of concentration and some poor defence from the hosts led to three unanswered converted tries and the visitors taking a 24-32 lead into the final ten minutes. Banbury looked completely in control.
Chippenham were not going to give up so easily on their home patch however, with the ever-dangerous backline conjuring a score from seemingly nothing. Another floated miss pass from Lewis Surry found Doggett, who in very little space, managed to ghost through a gap in the defence and sprint through to score. The conversion from Saunders left the hosts one point adrift. 31-32 Banbury.
This set the scene for a tense final period of the game. Chippenham looked to have secured the win after Saunders slotted a penalty kick to claim a 34-32 lead with five minutes to go. From the resulting restart, the leaders attempted to play their way out of their half rather than kick and give Banbury possession. This turned out to be the wrong decision, with a runner isolated and conceding a penalty for not realising the ball. The kick was by no means easy, roughly 45 metres on the angle. But with the wind at his back, the Banbury kicker cleared the cross bar with plenty to spare. 34-35 to Banbury.
The visitors held on to their lead, maintaining their 100% win record for the start of the season. Another close loss for Chippenham, who will look to return to winning ways at Bicester next week.