Oxford achieved their first win in 13 games with a strong defensive display away to closest rivals Gloucestershire All Golds.
It was an even start to the game, with only one attack of note in the first 20 minutes. That came when All Golds had two sets close to the Oxford line but both ended with grubber kicks that went beyond the in-goal area.
But in the middle of the half there was more action, with right wing Jordan Gill heavily involved. Firstly, he had to react quickly to knock dead another All Golds grubber kick. Then in the next Oxford attack he was involved as the visitors had a try disallowed for offside following a cross-field kick to his wing.
Play quickly returned to the other end and on the sixth tackle All Golds made the mistake of putting an attacking high kick towards Gill’s wing. He jumped highest to claim the ball, beat one man to get into space, and then outpaced the full-back for a length of the field try. Sam Druce converted for a 6-0 lead.
Oxford had one more promising attack before the break, but after running the ball on the last tackle Gill was unable to field a pass at his boot-laces and knocked on.
All Golds looked more business-like in the second half and regained possession from the kick-off by kicking it high in the air so that the wind blew it back nearer to their onrushing line. However, they conceded possession almost immediately with another knock-on.
Shortly afterwards, All Golds did get back on level terms. Their set started on their goal-line and Oxford defended well for the first two tackles, but then prop Harry Kidd burst through the defensive line. He made good progress and slipped the ball to the supporting Phil Cowburn who scored.
Oxford regained the initiative by retaining the ball from the kick-off, this time with a strong low kick by Gill that bounced into touch between two defenders. That possession did not lead to a score, but Oxford gradually increased the pressure, forcing a goal-line drop-out before retaking the lead. Matt Davies kicked along the ground on the last tackle and followed up his kick. The full-back fumbled the ball and Davies picked it up and dived over the line. With Sam Druce replaced by Bradley Moules for this half, Kieran Hyde took over the kicking duty and converted.
All Golds tried the same kick-off as at the start of the half, but this time Tommy Chipchase claimed the ball, and Oxford were to score shortly after. Following a penalty that gave good field position Stuart Biscomb drove the ball close to the line. Matt Davies received the ball on the next tackle, and apparently ran back into trouble, but he was able to slip the ball to Casey Canterbury who scored from close range. Hyde again converted.
The 12-point lead was not to last long, though, as All Golds got the ball back close to the Oxford line following a fumble, and Harry Kidd crashed over.
The last match between these two sides was even for an hour before the home team pulled away with several tries, but resilient defence from Oxford stopped anything similar happening this time. Although the All Golds had a lot of possession in the last 10 minutes, they never really threatened again and so the match ended 18-12. After a good start to the season, Oxford had lost 11 on the trot before a draw last time out and now another victory.
Next up for Oxford is the final home game, when Coventry Bears visit Tilsley Park. Kick-off is at 2pm on Saturday, 9 September.
All Golds – 1 Alex Gaskell, 2 Mo Agoro, 3 Phil Cowburn, 4 Lewis Reece, 5 Chris Barlow, 6 Danny Fallon, 7 Ben Stead, 8 Malikhi Lloyd-Jones, 9 Steve Parry, 10 Harry Kidd, 11 Chris Worrall, 12 Harrison Elliott, 13 Billy Brickhill
Interchanges: 14 James Mason, 15 Ross Price, 16 Richard Jones, 17 Joe McClean
Tries: Phil Cowburn (46), Harry Kidd (65)
Goals: Ben Stead (2 from 2)
Oxford – 18 Kieran Hyde, 2 Jordan Gill, 3 James Cryer, 4 Marcus Brooker, 5 Harrison Brough, 6 Callum Windley, 7 Matt Davies, 8 Jonny Payne, 9 Sam Druce, 10 Stuart Biscomb, 11 Dan Hindmarsh, 15 Harvey Burnett, 13 Casey Canterbury
Interchanges: 1 Jake Joynt, 16 Brad Moules, 17 Tommy Chipchase, 12 Jack Harbidge
Tries: Jordan Gill (23), Matt Davies (59), Casey Canterbury (63)
Goals: Sam Druce (1 from 1), Kieran Hyde (2 from 2)
Half-time – All Golds 0 Oxford 6
Full-time – All Golds 12 Oxford 18
Scoring sequence – 0-6, 6-6, 6-12, 6-18, 12-18
Referee – Matt Rossleigh
Penalties – All Golds 6 Oxford 6