Thursday, 11 August 2022

Injury time converted try leaves Abbey in drop zone

ABBEY’S disappointing second half of the season continued at Banbury where an injury time converted try deprived them of a losing bonus point.

The visitors led what was a largely forgettable encounter at half-time but they rarely dominated after the break. The result, added to the news that the club is to be deducted five league points due to a player registration error earlier in the season, leaves Abbey second from bottom in the South West 1 East table.

A tricky diagonal wind favoured Abbey in the first half, but after second row Chris Shaw had comfortably claimed the opening line-out of the game it was Banbury who launched the first meaningful attack.

Good tackles from centre Gavin Dampies and winger Charlie Gingell halted a move spearheaded by fullback Dan Brady, but Banbury looked set to take the lead after four minutes when they were awarded a penalty 30 metres out and in front of the posts but scrum half Ed Phillips sent his kick narrowly wide of the target.

A minute later Abbey took the lead after capitalising on a home mistake. Fullback Jules Greenaway sent a long high kick into the home half and unchallenged centre Matt Goude knocked on when he attempted to catch the ball. Greenaway regained possession, the ball was moved to the left and outside half Ben Mitchell fed Gingell. The winger cut inside and raced over the line for a good opportunist score. With Luke Burns and Olly Walton both missing, winger Louis Pawlett was given the conversion attempt, but he pulled the ball wide to the left.

Gingell caught the restart kick and scrum half Will Bevan set up skipper Sam Hallett and number eight David Cole for promising drives. Shaw and Cole took play into the home 22 and when Banbury were penalised for offside, Pawlett had another opportunity to go for the posts. The kick was in an easier position than his earlier conversion attempt, but again the ball drifted to the left.

Banbury attempted a short kick from the drop-out but a good tackle from prop Patrick McSweeney halted the move. Ed Phillips then broke through for Banbury but Abbey pinched the ball back and following a high kick from Bevan, a good run from Cole, supported by Hallett and Gingell, ended with Mitchell kicking the ball back into the home 22. Shaw won the next line-out of the game, but after a promising break from hooker Mark Toland the ball was lost.

Ed House replaced Cole after 32 minutes after which Banbury decided to kick for the corner despite being awarded a penalty in front of the Abbey posts. A great effort from Woodward stopped Banbury when they broke from the subsequent line-out, but Toland offended during the next home drive and was yellow-carded. Rather than sacrifice a forward at the next scrum, Abbey brought Greenaway off, with prop Jack Saunders replacing him. But this could not stop Banbury taking almost immediate advantage of their one man superiority, flanker Cash Chilvers diving over for a try close to the posts. Ed Phillips converted to give his side the lead.

The game had now entered first-half injury time, but there was time for Abbey to regain the advantage. With Daniels taking over the throwing in duties at the next line-out, Shaw, Saunders and Woodward all drove well before Hallett broke in the home 22. Mitchell then chipped ahead, but even though Banbury managed to touch down over their own line they coughed up possession again when the drop-out failed to cross the 22. Abbey took the ball wide to the right and Bevan and Woodward were held just short of the line but from the next phase McSweeney burrowed over to restore Abbey’s lead. Mitchell landed the conversion to give his side a 12-7 half-time lead.

Three minutes into the half, with Abbey still a man short, Mitchell attempted an ambitious penalty from nearly 40 metres out but his attempt barely left the ground. Greenaway returned to the field at the end of the binning period, but Toland stayed off with Saunders continuing at prop and Daniels at hooker.

Jeremy Knights replaced Ellaboudy after 52 minutes, after which good defence from Daniels and Shaw kept Banbury away from the danger area. However, Abbey were soon down to 14 men once more when Saunders was carded for not rolling away.

Banbury finally turned possession into points after an hour of play when, after a run from outside half Sam Stoop, Chilvers bludgeoned his way to the line for his second try of the game. Ed Phillips was just wide with the conversion attempt, leaving the teams level. The try seemed to galvanise Abbey into life again, and for the second time they scored a try with only 14 men. Centre Tom Huggins had now taken over the line-out throwing duties and after Knights had won the ball, Hallett, McSweeney and Bevan took play to the home 22. Greenaway then fed Shaw, and Woodward made further ground. The next phase saw Bevan and Hallett move play to the left, and Mitchell received from his skipper and crossed for a good try. He was unable to convert, but Abbey were back in front.

Banbury responded quickly to this setback, and within three minutes they were back in the lead. Huggins did well to halt a run from Brady, but a great crosskick from Stoop eluded Pawlett and Brady followed up to score a try on the left. Ed Phillips added the conversion to put Abbey two points behind.

Both teams were then temporarily down to 14 men when home prop Mike Fox was binned, but Saunders returned soon afterwards, giving Abbey their full complement again. At the same time Cole returned, replacing Woodward.

With the game entering its final minutes, Abbey did their best to get back into home territory. Greenaway and Daniels made good ground, but Banbury looked increasingly solid in defence. A good run from Cole made 20 metres, but the ball was lost before Abbey could make further progress. Ellaboudy and Toland replaced Hallett and Daniels, while Woodward came on again for Cole as the game entered injury time.

At this stage Abbey looked to have at least secured a losing bonus point, but in the 86th minute Goude made room for Brady on the left and the fullback crossed for his second try. He ran round to touch down under the posts, and when Ed Phillips converted Abbey’s consolation bonus had gone. There was still time for one final play, but Mitchell failed to make 10 metres with his restart kick and Banbury saw the game out comfortably.

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