Thursday, 18 August 2022

Abbey cruise to a comfortable bonus point win on their travels

ABBEY returned to winning ways in Wadworth Southern Counties North, scoring five tries and a penalty try against bottom club Drifters on Saturday.

The visitors were by no means at full strength, with skipper and number eight Will Woodward filling one of the centre positions, while Ben Finnie returned to the back row after a long spell out of the country. Abbey had to overcome persistent rain and a heavy, muddy pitch, but they always looked likely winners against a team which has yet to win this season.

Drifters are struggling for numbers at the moment and are only able to field one team. The last thing they wanted was to lose a player in the opening minutes of the game, but that is precisely what happened when prop Ryan Lynch was injured in the opening play.

Abbey soon got into their stride after the injury break, with outside half Tom Burns sending Woodward away on a 15 metre run. Drifters attempted to make use of the wind in the opening quarter, but they frequently failed to find touch. From one of their misdirected kicks fullback Gavin Dampies caught the ball and released Charlie Shackleford. The centre made 20 metres, taking play to the right hand side of the field. Number eight Mike Beckly and scrum half Louis Pawlett continued the move, but after Finnie had made further ground the ball was lost in the Drifters’ 22. A long pass from Burns gave Dampies the chance to run, after which Abbey’s pack applied significant pressure at a scrum. The visitors’ scrum was destined to impress all afternoon, and Abbey were soon attacking close to the home line.

Drifters were penalised on their own 10 metre line, and despite having to kick against the wind, de Marcilla Bahlsen landed a fine goal to register the opening points of the afternoon.

Beckly caught the restart kick and made 10 metres, and then Burns sent a high ball into the Drifters’ half. Abbey attacked again, with second row Jeremy Knights making a fine run. Woodward broke inside the Drifters’ 22, but Abbey were penalised.

At this point Beckly had to leave the field to receive attention, Fungai Mutepfa replacing him. Abbey continued to dominate territory and possession and another long kick from Burns saw winger Will Ryan set up a bout of passing. Mutepfa made ground, and Knights, second row Chris Shaw and prop Ollie Charlton all handled before another penalty was conceded.

Scrum half Luke Bruynseels took a quick tap penalty for Drifters but Abbey stole possession and Burns again kicked for territory. Mutepfa moved the ball to the left where de Marcilla Bahlsen plucked a pass off his bootlaces. King, Burns, Shaw and Mutepfa carried on the passing movement, and when Burns received again his clever pass gave Knights a run to the line. The second row touched down to the left of the posts and de Marcilla Bahlsen converted.

Within three minutes Abbey scored again. Knights took a good catch at a line-out close to the halfway line and Burns and Woodward made good ground. When Burns received again he slipped the ball to Shackleford, who set off on a 35 metre run, crashing past defender after defender in a storming run to the line. Again de Marcilla Bahlsen converted, and Abbey now led 17-0.

Beckly returned to the field in place of Mutepfa and Abbey instantly resumed their attacks with Shaw running 15 metres. The flurry of scoring continued and Abbey got their third try in less than 10 minutes after an impressive bout of handling. Burns and Dampies started the move, Shackleford took play into the 22 and Shaw made further ground. Then Burns’s pass to Woodward resulted in the skipper breaking through the Drifters’ defensive line, and his pass gave Charlton a simple run in to touch down under the posts. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion took Abbey to 24-0 after 37 minutes.

To the credit of the home side, they attacked with purpose in the final minutes of the half. Hooker Adam Postlethwaite did well to stop a run from second row Matt White, and after Abbey were penalised Pawlett put in an important tackle on his opposite number. Another penalty saw Drifters ignore an overlap and kick to the right corner. De Marcilla Bahlsen touched the ball down and then attempted to take a quick dropout, but the ball was knocked on and the half ended with no further scoring.

Abbey lost the ball inside their own half, home flanker Jamie Willis made an amazing break down the middle of the field. He was stopped only just short of the line, but after Abbey were penalised and then obstructed further home progress, referee Jonathan Royals awarded Drifters a penalty try. Then, in a bizarre sequence of events, Abbey themselves were given a penalty try just a minute later when Drifters remained offside after they were penalised five metres from their line. Abbey now led 31-7 and they had an all-important bonus point.

Shaw ran well from the restart, receiving good support from Postlethwaite, Charlton and Pawlett, and then Dampies and Ryan took play back into the home 22. The rain relented at this point, and Woodward made two impressive breaks before House knocked on as he was tackled.

Pawlett was replaced by Daniel Norville, with de Marcilla Bahlsen switching to scrum half. Abbey attacked close to the left corner, and Norville was soon in the action as he was stopped five metres short of the line. Abbey lost a line-out seven metres out, but after Finnie tapped the ball down at the next line-out Drifters were penalised. De Marcilla Bahlsen took a quick tap, and he found Woodward up in support. Abbey’s skipper ran a brilliant diagonal line and crossed for a great individual try wide on the left. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion attempt bounced wide off the left post in what was to prove his only miss of the afternoon.

Drifters made a brave effort to raise their game in the final quarter. They were not helped by a succession of injuries, and they were forced to play the final 10 minutes with 14 men after they ran out of replacements.

The game went to uncontested scrums and Drifters came very close to scoring after one of these. The ball was moved to the right, but when the impressive Willis plunged over the line Norville did superbly to get underneath him and hold him up. Soon after this Abbey stole possession, and it was perhaps fitting that they finished the match by scoring one more try. Beckly made a 30 metre break, Burns and King supported the move, and Woodward broke again to cross under the posts after a 30 metre charge. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s successful conversion was the final act of the game.

Abbey: G Dampies, W Ryan, W Woodward, C Shackleford, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, T Burns, L Pawlett (D Norville, 54 mins), O Charlton, A Postlethwaite, R King, J Knights, C Shaw, B Finnie, E House, M Beckly (F Mutepfa, 23-34 mins). Replacement not used: J Saunders.

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