Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Visitors’ first-half dominance proves decisive as Abbey lose out

A SPIRITED second half performance did much to restore Abbey’s pride and confidence after they had trailed 24-0 to a strong Windsor side at the break last Saturday.

The visitors failed to add to their score in the second period, missing out on a bonus point in the process, as Abbey’s pack battled bravely in the swirling wind and persistent rain at Rosehill.

Number eight James Wisener caught the kick-off for Abbey, and the home pack competed well in the early stages. Scrum half John Maliroire drove Windsor back into their own half with a clearance kick and although the home side was squeezed at the first scrum, it was Abbey who mounted the first meaningful attack.

Outside half Theo Evered linked well with Jules Greenaway and the fullback burst into space inside the Windsor 22. Second row Chris Shaw got to within five metres of the line, and when Windsor were penalised Abbey opted to take a scrum. They won possession from this but winger Matt Fearn was forced into touch in the right corner.

Abbey looked less confident at the early line-outs, although second row Maurice O’Connell did well to rescue one throw after Windsor had initially stolen the ball. Then, after Abbey had kicked into the visitors’ half, Windsor winger James Cullen ran well up the touchline. However, flankers Ed House and Jack Brown defended well, and after 15 minutes of play the game was very even.

The next few minutes proved to be decisive as Windsor claimed two tries in rapid succession. The visitors’ backs began to click, with centres Neil Baggett and Michael Curtis both making good ground. Then winger Luke Budd received the ball wide on the right, and nobody could touch him as he sped in from 35 metres and touched down under the posts. Fullback Jack Gaylor added the conversion and three minutes later he was lining up a second kick. A good run from Greenaway had seemingly set up a promising position for Abbey, but possession was lost and a speculative kick from Windsor resulted in a race to the home line. This was won by scrum half Ben Grant-Adamson, who touched down on the left. Gaylor’s conversion was superbly struck, and Windsor had a very useful 14-0 lead.

Abbey made two changes in rapid succession, with Ollie Charlton replacing prop Russ Orrburns and Matt Simmons coming on for Wisener.

Windsor struck again just after the half hour mark, and again it was thanks to a speculative kick ahead. This time Gaylor was first to the ball, and he crossed for a try to the right of the posts which he converted with ease. Abbey responded well, with centre Dan Love running well before he was upended in a tackle.

With five minutes of injury time played at the end of the half, Windsor were awarded a penalty and Gaylor made the half-time score 24-0.

The home side returned rejuvenated in the second half and with Orrburns back on in place of Woodger, the pack enjoyed a spell of dominance. Clever kicks by Greenaway and skipper Will Bevan pinned Windsor back in their own 22, and Orrburns, O’Connell. Maliroire and House all made ground with the ball. When Windsor rescued possession and kicked up to the halfway line, a skirmish ensued on the touchline, and as a result of this Cullen was shown a yellow card.

Evered and winger Alex Langford-Pollard counterattacked well for Abbey, and after nine minutes of the half Max Courtnage replaced Brown in the back row. A minute later Malivore departed with an injury, forcing a reshuffle. Wisener returned to the field, Simmons moved into the centre and Bevan came in from midfield to his more familiar position of scrum half. Abbey attacked again, with O’Connell, Greenaway and House heavily involved, and Windsor found themselves defending a line-out seven metres from their own line. The ball was tapped down loosely, but a tremendous piece of work on the ground by Shaw saw Abbey regain possession. The pack drove towards the line, and Courtnage plunged over with a couple of defenders clinging to him to claim a try. Evered’s conversion attempt kept low and just missed the target.

The sin bin period finished, but Abbey, thanks to some good kicks from Bevan, kept Windsor on the back foot.

With injury time being played, Charlton came on in place of Wisener, but after one more play, and with the game still in the Abbey 22, the final whistle sounded.

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