OXFORDSHIRE’S top sides are all back in action tomorrow for the first time in 2019 and the remainder of the season promises to be full of drama.

Chinnor have enjoyed an exciting first half to their debut campaign in National League 1, while Henley Hawks are riding high in the division below.

In South West 1 East, Banbury have put themselves in contention for a shot at the play-off position, and mid-table Oxford Harlequins will be hoping for a strong start to the new year.

Witney ended 2018 with back-to-back victories and face a crucial fortnight in their battle to beat the drop when they face fellow strugglers Beaconsfield and Salisbury.

While we all know teamwork is essential in rugby, we have picked out some of the individuals to keep an eye on this year.


The Oxford Times:

  • Craig Holland has scored 13 tries and kicked 33 points so far this season Picture: Simon Cooper

The former Cornish Pirates back has played a starring role for Chinnor so far. Starting the season on the wing, Holland was moved to fly-half in November after an injury to Caolan Ryan and has been a thorn in many a side. His confidence to attack the line makes him a danger at No 10, scoring 13 tries to date, while he is not bad from the boot either, kicking 33 points. Describing him as a “maverick player”, director of rugby Matt Williams praised Holland’s impact in an interview with the Oxford Mail in December. “The amount of tries he has scored where he has taken the ball into a one-on-one situation and skinned someone with his footwork is phenomenal,” he said. Holland’s form will surely be a key component to Chinnor continuing their strong debut campaign in the third tier.


The Oxford Times:

  • Sam Lunnon crosses for a try earlier this season Picture: Steve Karpa

Captain’s are meant to lead by example and Sam Lunnon has made quite an impact since signing last summer under new head coach Luke Allen. A superb run of 11 wins in 12 games has helped Hawks climb to second in National League 2 South and their skipper has been key. The flanker has also chipped in with his fair share of tries, crossing five times. He shares the captaincy at Hawks with Jake Albon and Allen believes the partnership has paid dividends. “Sam came here from National League 1 and they’ve gelled really well,” said the head coach. “He is a fantastic athlete, well-rounded, has great experience, talks well, the boys listen to him, but he’s got the support there with Jake Albon, who knows how things work here, and that has really helped him.”


The Oxford Times:

  • Ed Berridge scores a try against Swindon in November Picture: Simon Grieve

“His skill level, his intensity and probably one of the sexiest offloads you’ll see in rugby - he was fantastic” – that was coach James Kerr waxing lyricals about the No 8 after Bulls’ win over Witney in the Oxfordshire Cup in November. Berridge only made his debut for Banbury in October, but his strong running and trademark offloads have been giving the opposition nightmares ever since. All six of his league tries came over the course of the final six games of 2018, so keep an eye out for this man. Of course, there is one other player who cannot be ignored and scrum-half Ed Phillips, who has scored 137 points, should continue to show why he is so important to this team.


The Oxford Times:

  • Toni Turetta scored eight tries in his first ten league games for Oxford Harlequins Picture: Ric Mellis

There were not many wingers as clinical as this man during the opening ten weeks of the season, with the Italian crossing eight times in that period. He may not have touched down since November 3 as Quins endured a five-match winless run, but Turetta has proven he is a real threat and will play a key part as the side bid to better their fourth place finish from last season. Head coach Andy Boyle is a big fan, saying: “He’s been an absolute revelation for us. He’s just been potent on the wing. He’s played every game, attended every single training session. He has come over from Italy with an amazing attitude and we’re already nattering about holding on to him for next year – he’s been really good for us.”


The Oxford Times:

  • Ted Landray has only made four appearances this season, but averages 7.5 points per game Picture: Ric Mellis

Whether he plays fly-half, centre or full-back, the former England Students player’s return to the club where it all started, is a big boost for Richie Craig’s side. Witney face two must-win games over the next couple of weeks and Landray, who has played National League rugby for Taunton Titans, is an asset to a team, whose confidence is growing. Landray, a member of the promotion-winning Exeter University side through the South West 1 play-offs last season, has only played four games so far this campaign but he has scored 30 points in the process, including 14 against Royal Wootton Bassett on December 15. Witney will be hoping to have him available more often during the second half of the campaign and coach Jez Hicks hailed the player's ability. He said: "We've been lucky to have Ted Landray back, he's had a big influence. I don't think he will be around for long, this season and that will be it."

Steps seven to nine also resume this weekend and there is one player in the BB&O Championship who simply cannot be ignored - Matty Wheeler has scored an impressive 19 tries already for leaders Chipping Norton.

Other players to look out for are Wallingford’s Dan Sadler, Grove's Guy Nicholl, Wheatley’s Jack Smith, Didcot's Charlie Ellis and Abingdon's Charlie Palmer.