Leamington 27 Banbury 13
SPA returned to Midlands One West action with an impressive victory at Moorefields on Saturday.
Heavy rain created a muddy surface and the home side were forced to weather some early pressure in testing conditions.
Spa, who were penned in their own 22 for the opening ten minutes, were unlucky not to score on their first foray into the visitors half.
“Patch” Northover, who is having a fine season, broke clear and set up John Holland whose direct run was halted but Adam Preece was on hand to pick up the loose ball only to run out of space on the flank.
Leamington eventually opened the scoring when Kieran Martin picked up at the base of the scrum, forced his way forward and released Northover. As Spa pressed the visitors line the ball shot out from the ensuing maul and Alex Carroll superbly found wing John Raby who raced over for an exquisite score.
The heavy conditions meant, quite sensibly, that both sides were trying to keep the ball in the pack and Spa began to have the better of play with the front row of Gareth Eastham, Danny Phillips and skipper Nick Maxwell in good form.
Spa began to turn the screw as Simon Harry and Craig Smith produced plenty of clean ball in the line-out and it was no surprise they increased their lead with a well worked try.
Carroll and Northover linked up to release wing Richard Staff who followed up his kick ahead and was tackled without the ball. The resulting penalty was quickly taken and Mike Kelly touched down.
Banbury hit back and converted two penalties which reduced the arrears to 10-6 at half time.
Spa regained the initiative at the start of the second half and had already gone close before they were awarded a penalty try, which Northover converted, when Banbury kicked the ball out of a scrum.
Martin gathered the ball from the re-start and a flowing move involving Craig Smith, Preece and Danny Phillips was finished in style by Staff.
The Spa pack has constantly been reshuffled this season, due to injury and unavailability but such is the quality within the squad these changes are becoming seamless.
Craig Smith has become an excellent partner to Simon Harry in the second row and was equally adept in the back row this week, using his pace and strength to good effect, while Matthew Archer came into the side and put in a top notch shift at second row.
Banbury responded with a converted try but then lost influential No 8 Simon Brand to a yellow card offence which ended any hopes of a fightback.
Spa, inspired by Northover, continued to probe and an excellent display was capped with another try.
Maxwell won the ball against the head which allowed the back line to create space for John Holland to punch a hole in the Banbury defence with another strong run before Raby fed Smith who completed the scoring.
Spa are likely to travel to Barkers Butts for the rearranged league fixture this Saturday. The club website will give details.
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