ABBEY kick-started their South West 1 East campaign with a hard-fought first victory of the season
ABBEY kick-started their South West 1 East campaign with a hard-fought first victory of the season at Oxford Harlequins on Saturday.
Much was riding on the game inasmuch that both sides had lost their opening three fixtures, and Abbey had to dig deep in defence during a frantic final few minutes while both their second rows were in the sin-bin.
Abbey took the lead after just three minutes. Centre Ollie Walton and the brothers Kruzycki made early inroads in the home 22 and after skipper Sam Hallett was held just short of the line following a tap penalty, flanker Maurice O’Connell was up in support to cross for a try to the left of the posts. Murphy judged his conversion attempt well to put his side 7-0 ahead.
Immediately from the restart Quins outside half Huw Dimond missed a penalty from 35 metres, but Abbey failed to clear the ball, and following a scrum centre head coach Keni Fisilau, the former Tongan international who had until recently been playing with Plymouth Albion, stormed through for a try. Dimond’s conversion levelled the scores after six minutes.
After 25 minutes Fisilau showed his class and experience with a 40 metre burst, but Abbey were able to halt the attack in their own 22.
A grubber kick from Murphy put Abbey back on the attack as the game neared the half hour mark, and after Kacper Kruzycki had won another line out Hallett, Long, Murphy and Walton combined in a move which saw Greenaway stopped just short of the line.
Soon afterwards Murphy regained the lead for Abbey with a penalty. As the match neared half-time Abbey went in search of another score. Well-placed penalties from Murphy kept them close to the home line, and two minutes before the break they got a try when, after runs from Hallett and Walton, Murphy cut through on the left and allowed fullback Gavin Dampies to send Greenaway over the line in the left corner. The winger had the presence of mind to run infield to touch down as close to the posts as possible and Murphy’s conversion put Abbey 17-7 ahead. However, they again let their guard drop straight after scoring a try, and Dimond kicked a penalty in front of the posts to narrow the visitors’ lead to 17-10 at half-time.
Abbey started well in the second half with scrum half Will Paige getting his line moving and Greenway making 20 metres with a run. Abbey now proceeded to disrupt the Quins’ lineout with Kacper Kruzycki and Shaw both stealing home throws. On 55 minutes Abbey coach Fungai Mutepfa replaced Rolland in the front row.
There were moments of alarm for Abbey in the third quarter, notably when number eight Pete Alston, an impressive performer for the Quins, set up winger Guy Fairbairn. Fairbairn’s kick ahead crossed the visitors’ line, but Dampies got there first to prevent a try.
Just after an hour of play Walton had to leave the field for temporary treatment with Matt Gingell coming off the bench to join the three-quarter line.
A line-out catch from Shaw set in motion an attack involving Murphy and Dampies which saw Greenaway bundled into touch five metres from the line.
Hallett made various promising drives, Dampies made 20 metres from his own half, and Murphy and the returning Walton were both prominent in attack.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, Abbey got a third try. Soon after home prop Ollie Barlow had been yellow carded, the visitors’ pack pounded away at the home line after winning another line out. A run from Mutepfa was stopped inches short, but when the ball was recycled Michal Kruzycki barged over for the try. Murphy’s conversion attempt was just wide, but Abbey now led 22-10.
Abbey’s concentration seemed to drop from the restart as they lost possession in their own 22 and within the space of a minute both Hallett and Michal Kruzycki were shown yellow cards. Scrums were briefly uncontested as Barlow was off the field and Quins had already used their front row replacement, but when the prop returned Abbey had to defend furiously.
A home try seemed likely in the closing stages, but a combination of good tackling by Abbey and disjointed back play from Quins meant that there was no more scoring.
Twice a home player crossed the line only to be called back for a forward pass, and once a knock on. Murphy made a reckless attempt to run from close to his own line, and when the ball was lost Lovett capped a fine performance by tackling the dangerous Avery. Van Dijk knocked on as the Quins made one final effort to get at least a losing bonus point out of the game, but after five agonising minutes of injury time the final whistle blew and Abbey were victorious.