ABBEY’S poor run of results continued when High Wycombe visited Rosehill on Saturday but a spirited second half fightback provided grounds for optimism, writes Mark Hoskins.
The visitors led 19-0 at the break but Abbey hit back with three tries and were unlucky not to get a four-try bonus point.
The home side fielded a new halfback partnership in Nathan Tovey and Tom Wright and recalled Jeremy Knights to the second row. The latter selection proved an inspired one, with Knights featuring prominently in the line-outs and handling well around the park. He was Abbey’s best forward.
Abbey made an encouraging start, with Tovey, fullback Jack Brown, flanker Dai Garhard and skipper Sam Hallett all featuring in a speedy opening five minutes. Prop Jake Mollett did well to steal the ball at a turnover and after a run from winger Charlie Gingell High Wycombe were penalised 40 metres from their line. Wright opted to kick for goal, but the distance proved beyond him.
Abbey ran into trouble in the scrums getting pushed off their own ball at the first three put-ins. The visitors then laid siege to the home line and grabbed their first try in the 13th minute when winger Adam Lee scored on the left after a blindside move from a five-metre scrum. Outside half Matt Wardle’s conversion attempt drifted to the left.
Abbey tried to regain their early fluency and after a break from winger Steve Warwick, Knights was stopped just short of the line. Number eight Mike Beckley did well to hold on to possession at a retreating scrum in the opposition 22, but when Abbey were awarded a penalty centre Arron Ross overkicked when aiming for the corner and a good position was lost.
High Wycombe began to dominate. They were penalised for two crooked line-out throws, and Abbey, acknowledging their scrummaging problems, twice opted for line-outs rather than scrums. Hallett won the first of these, but Abbey were unable to get out of their own 22. Eventually, the visitors intercepted a loose pass, and clever play from Wardle set up a try for centre Kioa Folau. Wardle’s conversion made it 12-0.
Abbey attacked once more from the restart with Garhard making a good break but moments later High Wycombe came close to scoring a third try, Brown just halting Lee in the left corner. Three minutes before the break second row Peter Partis claimed the third try in the right corner which was converted by Wardle.
Two minutes into the second half High Wycombe scored a bonus point try, second row Sam Churchyard touching after a break from skipper Ian Isham.
Wardle was temporarily off the field with an injury at the time and fullback Joe Openshaw was unable to convert the try.
The remainder of the game was far more even. Tovey and Ross set up Warwick for a run and Jules Greenaway, who replaced Brown after 51 minutes, was quick to get involved with some clever handling.
After playing more than three-and-a-half games of rugby without scoring a point Abbey scored a try in the 62nd minute. Ross made the initial break and Warwick showed good pace to outstrip the defence to touch down on the right. Wright added a good conversion.
High Wycombe scored again almost at once, winger Greg Butters crossing on the right. Wardle was back on the field, but he could not add the conversion.
Prop Ollie Charlton then broke inside his own half and kicking ahead forced High Wycombe to touch down over their own line. Greenaway, Tovey and Walton handled well as Abbey began to dominate.
A second try followed in the 70th minute when Wright released Warwick on the right. The winger kicked ahead and when the ball crossed the line Tovey was up in support to touch down.
Wright could not convert as Abbey went straight back on the attack with Knights, Gingell, Wright and Hallett all featuring prominently. Just before the end of normal time High Wycombe centre Mark O’Haire was yellow carded and Abbey soon capitalised from having the extra man advantage when Ross crossed for a try wide on the right after a tap penalty. Wright saw his conversion attempt bounce wide after striking the crossbar.
Abbey made huge efforts in the dying minutes to grab a fourth try. Warwick was stopped just short of the line in the right corner while with almost the final move of the game Ross crossed the line, only to be penalised for a double movement.
Abbey: J Brown (J Greenaway, 51 mins), S Warwick, O Walton, A Ross, C Gingell, T Wright, N Tovey, O Charlton, J Holden (M Toland, 60 mins), J Mollett, J Knights, S Hallett, F Mutepfa (M Eldridge, 63 mins), D Garhard, M Beckley.