ABBEY endured a frustrating afternoon at Wallingford, going down by a single point after conceding a late penalty, writes Mark Hoskins.
The visitors looked likely winners for much of the game, especially after they established a 15-3 lead at the start of the second half, but their lightweight pack came under increasing pressure from the home eight and missed the extra bulk of absent forwards Paul Emery and Steve Willis.
The home side had the chance to take the lead in the opening minute, but outside half Ollie Henderson was wide with a penalty attempt. Then, after scrum half Steve Drake had kicked into the Wallingford 22, fullback Tom Waterhouse and winger Charlie Gingell mounted an attack from which Abbey were awarded a penalty which Waterhouse converted after five minutes.
There were ominous early signs of the power of the home forwards when number eight Kris Blaszko was held up over the line after a driving maul, and Wallingford drew level shortly afterwards when Henderson landed a penalty. He missed with a further attempt three minutes later, by which time Abbey had already been pushed off their own ball at a scrum.
Hooker Mark Toland handled well in the loose as Abbey played with confidence towards the end of the first quarter. Advantage was played close to the Wallingford line, and after Drake was just wide with a drop goal attempt, Waterhouse missed with the subsequent penalty. He made amends with a try a few minutes later. Drake fed outside half Dave Anfield from a scrum inside the Abbey half, and the number 10 made a clever break to take play up to halfway. Mutepfa and centre Tim Brain moved the ball wide to the left before Waterhouse kicked over the defence, chased and caught the ball and ran round to touch down under the posts. He added the conversion to put Abbey 10-3 up.
Abbey started the second half with a bang as Anfield was stopped on the line after a break from Drake, and then the scrum half engineered a fine try for Ross. He kicked cleverly over the defence, and the centre caught the ball and crossed in the right corner. Unfortunately, Waterhouse’s difficult conversion attempt dipped just short of the bar.
That was the end of Abbey’s dominance. Their cause was not helped when flanker Danny Pawlett retired injured, and with both prop Ollie Charlton and skipper Sam Hallett receiving attention for knocks the scrum began to creak.
After a prolonged spell of attacking, Wallingford finally breached the home defence when Blaszko barged over from close range on the hour mark. Henderson could not convert but the home side kept the pressure on and after Abbey were again pushed off their own ball at a scrum, replacement scrum half Derrick Viljoen pounced for a try wide on the right. Henderson failed to convert as Abbey’s lead was now just two points. Waterhouse had a chance to give Abbey some breathing space after 70 minutes, but he miscued a long, straight penalty. Abbey appeared to receive a boost when home player Andy Gillies was yellow-carded but they could not capitalise, and their own discipline let them down when they were marched back 20 metres for dissent after conceding a penalty.
Wallingford were still a man short when they were awarded a penalty on the Abbey 22 after the visitors were penalised for not releasing the tackled player. This time Henderson made no mistake, and for the first time in the game Abbey were behind.
The kick was landed right at the end of normal time, and in the five minutes of injury time that followed Abbey made a gallant effort to find a winning score.
Second row Chris Shaw won some valuable lineout ball, but the closest Abbey came was when Waterhouse was wide with a drop goal attempt.