Wednesday, 21 March 2018

New Abbey coach still searching for first win

AN error-strewn Abbey performance, hampered by late changes to the line-up, saw the Rosehill outfit slip to an ungainly defeat away to High Wycombe as they remain in the search for the first win under new head coach, Luke Harding’s tenure.

Three quick tries in succession from the home side gifted them early advantage and, although Abbey did well to close the gap to just 16 points at one stage, a strong and assured finish by the hosts secured them a 52-12 win.

Abbey started brightly with strong carries from forwards Chris Shaw and Mike Beckly and gained the first penalty advantage after a high tackle to the latter, but the subsequent line-out was lost after a strong aerial challenge from High Wycombe.

The visitors reacted well and Ryan Williams, enjoying his first season of first team rugby, impressed with his workrate and go-forward play.

High Wycombe soon settled and took advantage of Abbey’s hesitance to tackle with two tries within minutes of each other, after handling errors at the back of Abbey’s own scrum gifted them attacking opportunities. The home side’s own handling error count was mounting and although Abbey were awarded plenty of scrums, starting prop Richard King was forced to retire to the touchline after a persistent ankle injury, bringing Jack Saunders on to the field of play.

After High Wycombe’s third converted try, Abbey started to string some good phases of rugby together, led by returning captain and scrum-half Will Bevan and Gavin Dampies, his half-back partner for the afternoon.

Determined carries by brothers Ed and George House kept Abbey on the front foot as they forayed into High Wycombe’s 22 for the first time that afternoon. As Abbey’s confidence increased, the home side’s discipline decreased and their second row was eventually shown yellow after a late challenge on Shaw.

A successful line-out catch and drive from the subsequent penalty brought Abbey within touching distance of a score, but they were denied and their best scoring opportunity of the half went begging.

After such a strong finish to the half, Abbey were cruelly punished at the start of the second when an unfortunate bounce of the restart ball found a pair of High Wycombe hands, who worked the phases well to cross in the corner within minutes of the whistle. Abbey responded well through a good run from Jules Greenaway, who was denied metres short from a well-timed tackle.

Abbey got on the score sheet moments later when Beckly peeled off a much-improved scrum to find Bevan, who kicked and chased upfield with George House in pursuit. The ball found Shaw, who chalked up Abbey’s first points of the match.

Soon after Bevan was instrumental yet again in his side’s second try as he made another fine break, finding Ed House who slid in despite a late challenge from High Wycombe. Diego Garces de Marcilla, having missed the first conversion, made no mistake with the second and Abbey were in sniffing distance of a bonus point.

It was to be the end of any more attacking rugby, as High Wycombe responded well to ensure a further four tries as the home side capitalised on injuries to Shaw and the sidelining of Ed House as he was shown yellow for a late hit, combined with an increasingly fatiguing Abbey side.

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