ABBEY picked up a losing bonus point on their first visit to Old Centralians
ABBEY picked up a losing bonus point on their first visit to Old Centralians who were relegated to South West Division 1 East at the end of last season.
The visitors were outscored by four tries to one having led at half-time and dominated territory for long periods of the match.
Both sides were hampered by a damp, heavy playing surface and handling was difficult at times. Centralians looked to have taken an early lead when centre Ollie Locke chased a kick ahead and dived on the ball over the line, but referee Tom Doige decided the ball was not grounded. A minute later Abbey winger Jules Greenaway came close to scoring in similar circumstances at the other end of the pitch, but he was unable to reach the ball before the covering defence.
Abbey enjoyed plenty of territorial dominance in the opening quarter. Flanker Will Woodward did well to steal possession from a home attack, and scrum half Diego De Marcilla Bahlsen made a good sniping run. However, his stay on the pitch proved to be short as he was injured after 12 minutes and his replacement, Will Paige, proceeded to have a good match, impressing with his high kicks and intelligent distribution.
Outside half Joe Murphy missed an early penalty for Abbey, and they then suffered further injury woe when number eight Paul Emery had to leave the field, though he returned within six minutes.
The visitors continued to press for a score, with centre Arron Ross just failing to hold on to the ball when close to the home line.
Centralians had their first chance of points after 22 minutes, but outside half Harry Preece was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt.
Woodward made good ground for Abbey, but after flanker Chris Shaw had won a line out skipper Sam Hallett was yellow-carded. Centralians claimed the first points of the game following a break from prop Dan Hayes in the 28th minute. The ball was moved through several pairs of hands before Preece scored a try to the right of the posts. His conversion attempt struck the left upright and bounced wide.
Abbey went back on the attack and fine play from winger Ollie Lovett, Greenaway and Michael Kruzycki resulted in the visitors getting a line out seven metres from the home line, but the ball was lost from the throw. Home hooker Nathan Stroud was shown a yellow card, and from the resulting penalty Murphy kicked Abbey’s first points of the afternoon.
Hooker Ollie Charlton battled well for possession as Abbey continued to attack. Fullback Gavin Dampies supplied a kick and chase, and after Abbey were awarded a further penalty Murphy kicked the points to put his side 6-5 ahead.
Hallett soon got his hands on the ball when he returned from the bin, while Emery, Paige and prop Ed Whelan all came close to a score in the last play of the half.
Kaspar Kruzycki, who had earlier temporarily replaced Emery, came on for Shaw at the start of the second half. Paige continued his aerial bombardment as the action resumed, and Abbey came close to a score when Dampies chased one of the scrum half’s kicks. Unfortunately, he was unable to hold on to the wet ball when he seemed in the clear.
Abbey continued to attack, with their font row of Whelan, Charlton and Liam Dixon ensuring that the scrum remained strong and steady. Dixon was replaced by Patrick McSweeney after 48 minutes, though he soon returned in place of Whelan, after which both Paige and Murphy pegged Centralians back with clever tactical kicks. A further Abbey score seemed likely, and this came after 52 minutes when Murphy added another penalty.
Abbey’s 9-5 lead seemed to galvanise Centralians into action and it took a tackle from Charlton to halt the home side’s flanker Rich Pinkney. The visitors still held the lead after an hour of play, but Centralians were now on the attack.
Paige did well to stop number eight Niall Gibbons when he broke from a scrum, but after Dampies was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock on, the home side took the lead. Abbey looked to have survived a series of drives on their line when Hallett managed to grab possession, but Paige’s hasty clearance kick was charged down by Gibbons and the number eight touched down for his side’s second try. Preece could not convert.
Despite the absence of Dampies, Abbey were soon on the attack again. Murphy had the chance to regain the lead with a penalty, but his kick drifted to the left of the posts. A minute later he set up a try when he made a blindside break from thirty metres out. He handed on to Greenaway, and the winger’s pass sent centre Ollie Walton on his way to line. Murphy just failed to add the conversion from wide on the right.
Abbey’s 14-10 lead was short-lived. A long kick into the home 22 was run back by Jones, and as the ball was moved to the left Abbey’s defence was split. Eventually Pinkney grounded the ball over the line in the left corner. Scrum half Alex Cox took over the kicking duties, but his attempted conversion flew wide.
Dampies now returned to the action, but Centralians looked the stronger side as full time approached. They all but sealed the game three minutes from the end when Cox took a quick tap penalty and scooted over for his side’s bonus point try. Had he converted successfully he would have deprived Abbey of a losing bonus point, but the kick was narrowly wide. There was still time for Abbey to mount a final attack, but Centralians held out comfortably enough in the dying minutes.
Abbey: G Dampies, O Lovett, A Ross, O Walton, J Greenaway, J Murphy, D De Marcilla Bahlsen (W Paige, 12 mins), E Whelan (L Dixon, 52 mins), O Charlton, L Dixon (P McSweeney, 48 mins), M Kruzycki (C Shaw, 75 mins), S Hallett, W Woodward, C Shaw (K Kruzycki, 40 mins), P Emery (K Kruzycki, 13-19 mins).