Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Visitors outmuscled on travels as side miss out on bonus point

ABBEY were beaten by the better side at Thatcham, but they contributed fully to an entertaining match and the result was in doubt until the final few minutes last Saturday.

The visitors were outscrummaged for much of the afternoon but were always competitive and were unfortunate not to come away with at least one bonus point. The result sees Abbey drop to eighth place in Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North with two games still to play.

Abbey went behind after just three minutes. They were pushed off the ball at the opening scrum, and after Thatcham moved the ball to the right, winger Sean Richardson crossed for a try in the corner. Fullback Joe Leadley was unable to convert

Number eight Mike Beckly did well to rescue possession at the base of a retreating scrum and after good driving runs from flanker Maurice O’Connell and second row Chris Shaw, outside half Theo Evered kicked to the left corner. Eventually, after a good run from Knights, centre Arron Ross was held up over the line. Advantage to Abbey was being played, and when the penalty was finally awarded, flanker Matt Gingell kicked the points to put Abbey on the scoreboard after 11 minutes. Thatcham centre Marty Butler made the first of several impressive breaks when play restarted, and Abbey soon suffered a blow when Knights was yellow-carded.

Abbey won another penalty 40 metres out. The kick, well to the left of the posts, was not an easy one, but Gingell landed it to put Abbey one point ahead. Soon after Knights returned from the sin bin.

On 26 minutes Abbey won another penalty and this time Gingell goaled it from 35 metres to put the visitors 9-5 ahead.

However, the visitors were soon behind again, surrendering a lead they were destined never to regain. Just two minutes later Thatcham scrum half Danny Shaughnessy took a quick tap penalty inside the Abbey 22 and Richardson sprinted over on the right for his second try. Again Leadley was unable to convert. One minute later Abbey suffered another blow when O’Connell was helped from the field after suffering an injury to b Leadley kicked a penalty to put his side 13-9 up.

Shaw and Ross continued the attack, and the outcome was another Abbey penalty. Gingell was successful from 38 metres and Abbey were now just a point behind again.

As the first half drew to a close, Charlton was binned for a deliberate knock-on and despite the efforts of Ross and Shaw to mount attacks, Thatcham began to monopolise possession. Skipper Mark Smith broke clear to score a try to the left of the posts. Leadley’s conversion made the half-time score 20-12 to Thatcham.

Despite being a man down at the start of the second half, Abbey again scored while they had numerical disadvantage. Within two minutes of the restart, House and Ross attacked up the left wing. Bevan continued the move and his pass back to Ross gave the battling centre a try. Gingell was unable to add the extras.

Abbey were soon forced to defend again after Shaughnessy and outside half Derek Allan took play back into the visitors’ 22. Here Butler again proved a handful for the Abbey defence, and he broke clear to score on the right to give Thatcham a bonus point try. Leadley converted to make it 27-17.

Soon after Shaw was held up just a metre short, after which home hooker James Thorogood was yellow-carded. His departure coincided with the return of Charlton for Abbey.

After 50 minutes a series of drives culminated in replacement prop Luke Daniels touching down for Abbey’s second try which Gingell was unable to convert.

A long spell of Thatcham pressure followed. Bevan and Ross did their best to work the ball clear of the danger area but a penalty was conceded which Leadley sent to the right of the posts.

Thatcham’s sin-bin period was now over, but Abbey managed to work the ball back into the home half, where a promising series of attacks developed. Ross was again to the fore with good support from Evered and centre Charlie Shackleford. Both Evered and Ross got close to the line, and when Abbey mounted another drive Postlethwaite crossed for their third try. Gingell missed a difficult conversion attempt and the scores were now level at 27-27 with 16 minutes remaining.

It was at this stage that the Thatcham pack really took control of the set piece. They won a series of scrums in the Abbey 22, and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors would concede another try.

When the score came it was a pushover try, Mark Smith touching down and Leadley adding the conversion.

Replacement Jim Bourne and Lambert-Taylor nearly created a score wide on the right, and at this point Abbey’s chances of at least getting back on level terms received a boost when Leadley was sent to the bin. Bevan took a quick tap from the subsequent penalty, and Collier and Beckly nearly got to the line.

The visitors were then given another penalty, this time directly under the posts. With five minutes left there was time for Gingell to land the simple points on offer and for Abbey to attack again, but instead they opted for a scrum. Thatcham’s superiority at the set piece saw them shove Abbey off their own ball and boot it way down into the visitors’ half.

This proved to be the defining moment of the match as Abbey were now penned back close to their 22. Mark Smith and Shaughnessy made good ground to the left and winger Jack Harwood was on hand to cross for the match-winning try in the left corner. Shaughnessy kicked a touchline conversion and despite the best efforts of Ross and Shaw in the dying minutes, Abbey were unable to score a consolation try to claim a bonus point.

Abbey: J Lambert-Taylor, M Seabourne, C Shackleford, A Ross, D Norville (J Bourne, 61 mins), T Evered, W Bevan, M Collier (L Daniels, 49-80 mins; O Charlton, 81 mins), A Postlethwaite, O Charlton (M Collier, 74 mins), J Knights, C Shaw, M O’Connell (E House, 29 mins), M Gingell, M Beckly (L Daniels, 40-49 mins).

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