Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Visitors have no answer to Abbey's fight back

HOSTS Abbey were 29-10 down at half-time, having conceded five tries to a confident and rampant Thatcham side, but in a remarkable turnaround, they scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to snatch the most unlikely of victories.

The home side had good reason to be grateful for the attacking and defensive skills of winger Remi Norville, while Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen, who started on the wing before switching to scrum half, scored 15 points in a faultless display of goalkicking. It was his touchline conversion with four minutes of normal time left which proved to be the winning score.

Second row George House won an early line-out for Abbey, after which his brother Ed spearheaded a forward drive. The flanker won his side a penalty, and after Thatcham infringed within 10 metres the kick was moved closer to the posts. De Marcilla Bahlsen landed the goal from 25 metres to give his side an early lead.

Thatcham hit back as Liam Rowland crossed for an unconverted try after five minutes.

Skipper Will Woodward broke from the first scrum of the game but possession was kicked away and Thatcham instantly took advantage and scored again through Jack Harwood. Leadley’s conversion attempt bounced wide via a post.

Woodward and centre Charlie Shackleford launched a further attack and after George House and Burns took play back into the visitors’ 22, Abbey scored their first try. A pass between his legs by Burns released Norville wide on the right and the winger evaded the clutches of Butler and cross for the score. De Marcilla Bahlsen judged the kick to perfection.

Thatcham continued to press inside the home 22 and regained the lead after 20 minutes when Shaughnessy’s offload resulted in Leadley sprinting in under the posts. This time he made no mistake with the conversion.

Abbey conceded a series of penalties close to their line. They successfully defended one driving maul, but when Thatcham drove for a second time flanker Chris Dixon crossed for the bonus point try. Leadley convered.

Abbey lost a scrum against the head and Thatcham were handed a try-scoring opportunity. Butler made a break up the middle of the field and timed his pass to Rowland. Norville gave chase and managed to tackle Rowland on the line, but the fullback was able to get the ball down for his second and his side’s fifth try. Leadley could not convert as Thatcham led 29-10 at half-time.

Abbey made positional changes at half-time and home side instantly looked more lively and were awarded a penalty under the posts and de Marcilla Bahlsen obliged with the points.

Abbey began to attack again and were awarded a penalty 40 metres out. Again de Marcilla Bahlsen kicked well to make the score 29-16 after 53 minutes.

George House made another good break and then Woodward actually broke clear and crossed the line but was called back and Abbey were awarded a scrum.

A try came soon afterwards when Burns broke down the middle inside the Thatcham 22 and his inside pass found Love who ran a good line and just had enough strength and pace to battle over the line. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion cut Thatcham’s lead to six points with 17 minutes remaining.

It was all Abbey now, with Shaw, Burns, Love and Ed House all prominent in attack. A huge team effort ensued with Abbey trying desperately to claim the crucial score. Greenaway, Norville and Love combined well, and Toland and prop Adam Postlethwaite both made ground close to the line.

Four minutes from the end of normal time Shaw and Shackleford both made good runs, and then Toland and Postlethwaite worked the ball to the right. Norville received possession wide on the right and he did well to remain on the correct side of the touchline and sprint in for a try. All now depended on de Marcilla Bahlsen who kept a cool head and struck the ball to perfection to put Abbey ahead.

As the game entered injury time Thatcham made one final effort to regain the lead. They showed good discipline and control to keep possession in a series of attacks, and eventually were awarded a penalty 40 metres from the Abbey posts. T Leadley elected not to go for goal, opting instead to kick for the left touchline but he failed to reach the safety of touch thanks to a leap from Norville. The winger tapped the ball in mid-air and kept it on the field. Abbey kicked ahead and the ball ricocheted off a Thatcham player and into touch again as he final whistle sounded.

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