Banbury Bulls 13, Northampton BBOB 7

If winning ugly is the mark of champions, then Banbury Bulls must be a good bet for the Midlands 2 East South crown.

However, they will need to find more control than they did in this error-strewn clash, which saw visiting scrum half Paul Briggs red-carded just before half-time.

The windy conditions were never likely to produce a match full of running rugby, but after a decent first half, Bulls should have done better.

Having trailed just 7-5 at the break after playing against the elements, Banbury then failed to find the tactical kicking game that would surely have paid dividends.

The penalty count was high, with BBOB full back Alex Milne off target after one such award on three minutes.

Bulls had plenty of possession considering they were playing into a strong wind, with No 8 Simon Brand carrying the ball well.

Referee Gary Williams sent Briggs off for two yellow cards, with his first coming for hands in the ruck on 14 minutes.

Banbury appeared to have wasted their penalty from just five metres out, but Northampton lost possession as they tried to bring the ball clear.

And the hosts took advantage in clinical style with lively wing Jed Boyle breaking a tackle to score on the left.

The visitors failed to kick long when that seemed the best option, but a clever grubber from centre David Abraham enabled him to dive under the posts on 21 minutes, with Milne converting.

Banbury defended well for the most part, while BBOB lacked precision.

Bulls ended the half on top and with a two-man advantage as flanker Warren Mackie was sin-binned and Briggs received his marching orders for a second professional foul.

Briggs’s dismissal came after some excellent driving play from Banbury as flanker Adam Walsh went close.

Bulls took the lead on 46 minutes when Brand and scrum half Eddie Phillips combined well before centre Guy Sturla powered over, but the home side lost discipline and conceded a string of penalties.

They managed to stretch their lead with a successful three-pointer from centre Pete Papenfus on 56 minutes.

But Bulls huffed and puffed to no avail in the final quarter despite the continued efforts of skipper Sean Bannister.

Banbury’s inability to pin the visitors back into wind gave them a confidence boost and a couple of half-chances, but Bulls managed to hold on.

Banbury: Taylor, Collett, Sturla, Papenfus, Boyle, Mills, Phillips, Gilbert (Williams [blood] 30-37), Byott, Boscott, Pratt, Phipps, Bannister (capt), Walsh, Brand. Reps not used: Jeyes, Sorrell.

Referee: G Williams (Oxfordshire).

Man-of-the-match: Brand.