Friday, 22 February 2019

Tigers claw way back to claim draw

Tigers claw way back to claim draw

ABBEY NUNS’ coach Jack Reynolds praised his side’s “fantastic” attacking prowess in their 21-21 draw against Cheltenham Tigers at the weekend, writes Fiona Tomas.

Abbey’s hopes of playing Championship South next season took a boost as the Nuns battled to a crucial away draw with just two games remaining.

Looking the more dominant side on their home artificial grass pitch, it was the hosts who scored early on, eventually breaking their defensive line through a series of intelligent offloads.

But the Nuns responded instantly, inspired by strong carries from centres Hayley Matthews and Lia Gingell, aided by territorial kicking from Alice Denton.

The equaliser came when scrumhalf Ellie Rice nudged through a box-kick which Annette Tomas gathered and ran in under the posts.

A period of indiscipline by Tigers gifted the Nuns a series of scrums but the host’s strong defence kept Abbey at bay to leave the score 7-7 at the break.

The second half saw a revived forward pack of Annabel Hawkins, Pippa Robinson and Jess Potter carrying well. Hooker Claire Stevens picked a sweet line off Rice to side-step the fullback and score her maiden try of the season. Cheltenham responded and their scrum-half Laura Hale continued to snipe as she had done all game, eventually taking a penalty quickly and scurrying in under the posts.

Moments later, Denton joined in the fun with a trademark strong carry before diving over the whitewash, before duly converting her own try to put the Nuns 21-14 ahead. But, despite a ferocious defensive effort from Joey and Meghan Fowler, as well as replacement winger Anais Carbon, Cheltenham struck five minutes from time to share the spoils in an evenly contested encounter which saw Tigers captain shown a yellow at the death.

The result leaves Abbey seventh in the table, one point above bottom of the table Trojan Ladies, who they face on January 27.

Despite agonisingly missing out on a crucial victory which would have all but secured their Championship status for next season, Abbey coach Reynolds hailed the marked improvements his side have made since the start of the campaign.

He said: “As a team, we’ve come a long way this season and the ladies’ attitude at the end of the match showed exactly that. After the final whistle we all came together and knew we could have won it. The team were fantastic in attack and made all the right decisions.

“We had three defensive lapses and that’s when Cheltenham scored, which you have to give them credit for.

“Ideally, we’d be a lot more comfortable at this stage but thankfully our competitiveness has given us bonus points which keeps our survival in our own hands.”

• ABBEY NUNS 2nds came away from Battersea Ironsides 2nds with a hard-fought 24-20 win. Fullback Jordanne McGregor impressed, as did centre Fiona Tomas and prop Siobhan Kearns, all three of whom kept the Nuns on the front foot throughout the game. The result leaves the Nuns 2nds second in National Challenge South East 3, just three points behind leaders Bracknell Ladies.

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