Leamington 12 Banbury 3: Leamington’s stout defensive display helps them shock high-flying Banbury

Leamington man-of-the-match Gareth Shuttleworth forces his way through the Banbury defence. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt
Leamington man-of-the-match Gareth Shuttleworth forces his way through the Banbury defence. Picture: Gina Ruyssevelt

Leamington produced a resolute defensive display to claim an excellent win over high-flying Banbury.

Having suffered just two defeats going into the match, third-placed Banbury were always going to be a tough nut to crack and their opening play was a warning to the hosts of what to expect.

Although playing against a strong wind, they put Leamington under immediate pressure that required the quick intervention of a Mark Baldwin tackle to stem the flow.

Then James Robertson was on hand to launch a huge kick out of defence to curb Banbury’s early enthusiasm.

Banbury kept up a constant barrage on the home side and Leamington’s defence was tested to the full in the first quarter.

At this juncture they were finding it difficult to get out of their own half and were relying on some stout tackling and the boot of Robertson to keep out of trouble.

With almost half an hour played and Leamington still finding it difficult to get into an attacking rhythm, the home side capitalised on a rare slip-up in the Banbury play to take the lead, Robertson latching on to a stray pass and racing 30 metres to score under the posts.

He quickly added the extras to give his side the ideal reply to all the pressure they had soaked up.

The score certainly gave the home side a lift and they quickly increased the lead following some exquisite play. Baldwin switched direction and broke out at pace and unleashed a pass to full-back Nathan Earland.

The ball was quickly moved up the far wing and as defenders reacted, Earland had Jamie Harrison in support, who took possession, hit the gas and raced in to score.

Leamington had well and truly wrested the initiative from the visitors, who found themselves looking to overturn a 12-point advantage when the second-half kicked off.

After the break, Craig Smith left his second-row berth and reverted to number eight, striking an immediate understanding with Patrick Northover as Spa looked to counter the effects of a keen wind.

Banbury, who had benefitted all afternoon from numerous penalty decisions, managed to get on the board with an early kick at goal.

However, this ultimately proved to be the only time they were to worry the scoresheet as Leamington mounted an all-out defensive performance that completely snuffed out the Banbury attack.

The one major disappointment was an injury to talismanic player-coach Tom Greevy.

However, his departure did not diminish the tempo of the Leamington display and as the game entered the final quarter, the home side tightened up and ensured their defence remained impervious to any foray Banbury managed to attempt.