Friday, 22 February 2019

Abbey make history with first double against local rivals

Abbey make history with first double against local rivals

ABBEY claimed a much-prized double over their local rivals, winning a league match at Holme Park for the first time and securing a bonus point in the process last Saturday.

The bulk of the first 40 minutes took place in the Abbey half, though little of note occurred until Reading took the lead in the 35th minute. Number eight Max Courtnage made good progress up the field after Reading were penalised at the opening scrum, and the same player did well to control possession at the first lineout. But Abbey soon found themselves pinned inside their own half.

The visitors’ line-out functioned well in the early stages, although flanker George House made a couple of good clean catches. Courtnage did well to dispossess Reading second row Ryan Smith in the tackle, and prop Adam Postlethwaite and lock Maurice O’Connell linked well.

Both sides made mistakes, with passes going astray and kicks going out on the full, but Abbey skipper Will Bevan twice sent up promising box kicks which Reading did well to collect. Courtnage made another good break from a maul, after which there was a break in play as referee Wayne Davis lectured both captains following a skirmish off the ball.

By now 25 minutes had gone and Abbey were still struggling to leave their 22. They conceded a string of penalties at this stage, but when Reading kicked for the corner, their hooker Mark Toland, a former Abbey forward, was penalised for a crooked throw.

Again Abbey were penalised and this time Reading won the line-out and pounded the visitors’ line with a series of drives. Abbey defended magnificently and eventually they stole possession, allowing centre Olly Walton to boot the ball clear. At this point Orrburns was replaced in the front row by Ollie Charlton. After 35 minutes, Reading got the try their territorial dominance deserved when flanker Ed Dixon broke to the left inside the 22 and gave centre Alex Dorliac a clear run to the line. Fullback Nick Burch saw his conversion attempt bounce onto the crossbar and then go over.

Having taken the lead Reading knocked on the restart kick. O’Connell took full advantage of this, and his pass to Courtnage allowed him a chance to take play into the home 22. Play then switched to the right hand side of the field where O’Connell attempted a rare kick. It didn’t work, but advantage was being played and Walton sent over a good 30 metre penalty to register Abbey’s first points. Soon after a kick to touch gave Abbey a five metre line-out and after George House won the throw the backs joined the maul as the pack surged for the line. Ed House was driven over for a try, and although Walton’s conversion attempt flew wide to the left, the half time whistle sounded with Abbey in the lead.

Abbey looked a faster, hungrier side as the game recommenced and having got the psychological boost of a try just before the break, they scored again in the first two minutes of the second half. O’Connell, Bevan and Charlton combined to take play into the Reading 22, and Ross and Malivore both made further progress. Then, a dummy and a carefully disguised pass from Ross released fullback Jules Greenaway, who sprinted over unopposed to the left of the posts. Walton would normally have expected to land the relatively straightforward conversion, but the ball fell off the kicking tee and Reading charged it down when he attempted a drop kick.

Abbey, with Chris Shaw and Dan Love now on the field for second row Adam Brooker and winger Alex Langford-Pollard, raised the intensity more in search of further points. Hooker Matt Hart broke inside the home 22, O’Connell carried on the move and Abbey won a penalty wide on the left. George House made the all-important catch at the line-out, but after a strong drive from O’Connell the ball was knocked on.

Bevan and Greenaway attacked towards the left, and Courtnage stormed clear to cross for a brilliant try. Walton’s equally impressive conversion took Abbey’s lead to 20-7.

Reading rallied again but when they were awarded a penalty Burch’s touch kick went too far and Abbey were able to break clear. Shaw, Bevan, Ross and Charlton were all involved in the next bout of passing. The result was another penalty for Abbey, but Walton saw his attempt at goal bounce wide off the right post.

Play remained in the Reading 22 and Abbey were soon back in possession, with George House driving close to the line. Orrburns returned to the field in place of Hart and Reading were awarded a scrum on the edge of their 22. As the ball came out of the scrum, Bevan disrupted his opposite number Juillaume Janin, and he managed to claim possession. He ran to the left where George House was up in support to plunge over for Abbey’s all-important bonus point try. Walton could not convert.

Reading managed a consolation score when a quick tap penalty gave Burch room to cross wide on the right. His hastily taken conversion also went over.

Abbey: J Greenaway, A Langford-Pollard (D Love, 42 mins), M Beckly, O Walton, J Malivore, A Ross, W Bevan, R Orrburns (O Charlton, 31 mins), M Hart (R Orrburns, 68 mins), A Postlethwaite, A Brooker (C Shaw, 42 mins), M O’Connell, G House, E House, M Courtnage.

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