Chipping Norton close to gaining promotion were eager to make their mark against a struggling Phoenix outfit. But Phoenix have regrouped in recent weeks and were keen to build on their strong performance against Bicester the previous week. Ian Watkinson
as Captain and retuned to his customary role as flanker prepared his side well for this encounter.
Things got underway and if Chipping Norton had any thoughts of an easy ride, they were quickly blown away by an early Phoenix onslaught. The Phoenix scrummage and lineout were performing well, if not dominant and for the first quarter of this match Chipping Norton were pinned inside their own half. Edd Dibb
drove strongly at prop forward for Phoenix and the back row of Watkinson, Morgan and Harrison gave Chipping Norton no time at all to consider their options. How Phoenix managed not to score during this first quarter is a credit only to some good Chipping Norton defence and a missed penalty goal attempt by the normally reliable Phoenix fly-half Will Ballantyne. But the Phoenix failure to score was compounded as they attacked Chipping Norton in mid-field and knocked on. Playing with the advantage, Chipping Norton moved the ball wide and crossed for their opening try on the half hour. In spite of Phoenix dominating proceeding in all phases, it was Chipping Norton who scored to extend their lead just before the break with a forward drive by their star flanker who managed to link with his support for a try beneath the posts and take a 14 point lead into the break against the run of play. Clearly Phoenix had more possession than their opponents and clearly they had territorial advantage but their inability to convert these two vital qualities into points were crucial.
Paul Devlin came into the fray for the injured James Dean as the second half got under way. However Chipping Norton recovered their composure and forced some excellent defence from Phoenix, In the main, tackling from Ian Watkinson
and full back Bradley Coomber
but the whole of the Phoenix side were in tune and defended strongly. Veteran prop forward ALAN HERD
replaced the injured Jamie Willis
. But as the match entered its final quarter, The Chipping Norton flanker struck again with a strong forward drive and engineered bonus point try, taking his side almost out of sight at 26 point to nil. In the final minute of the game Phoenix fly-half Will Ballantyne left the field with a broken ankle and was replaced by Paul Devlin in the closing stages. Chipping Norton crossed for a final try just before the whistle. Phoenix gave their best performance of the season so far and threatened to break through on many occasions, having the better field position and generally more possession throughout the match, they should have taken control. But they failed to convert this superiority into points early in the match and allowed Chipping Norton back into the game, a position from which they capitalised. Next weekend Phoenix entertain Stow on the Wold at Institute road, kick-off 2.15 p.m. Everybody is welcome.
Phoenix train every Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7.00 p.m. at their grounds in Institute road Taplow see www.phoenixrfc.com for further information.
Phoenix: E Dibb, J Dean, J Willis, N Wyncombe, N Coltman, I Watkinson (Captain), T Morgan, C Harrison, K Roach, W Ballantyne, J Winters, J Richardson, A McMillan, M Lloyd, B Coomber.
Subs: P Devlin, A Herd, C Clarke.