Friday, 28 February 2020

Abbey disappointed as they return from travels empty-handed

ABBEY had sufficient power up front and ample first half territorial advantage to have obtained at least a try-scoring bonus point in their game at Stow-on-the-Wold on Saturday but the home side’s more experienced backs continuously exploited weaknesses in the visitors’ defence.

Abbey conceded five tries, including two either side of half-time, and, despite a late rally, left Gloucestershire empty-handed.

A strong wind was blowing down the pitch as flanker George House put pressure on home scrum half James Fletcher at the opening scrum, and Jeremy Knights charged down a clearance kick. The ball bounced over the Stow line and the home side touched down for a 22 metre drop out. After 12 minutes of play Stow had not left their own half but when home full back James Holmes caught the ball just outside his 22 he found a gap in midfield and burst clear. Veering to the right, he fed Will Marks with a flat pass, and the winger evaded his opposite number Max Boucher and sped away for a try.

Knights won a line-out and and the entire back row handled as play was moved to the right. Jones received the ball a metre out and powered over for a try. Centre Charlie Shackleford landed the conversion to give Abbey the lead after 16 minutes.

Second row Toby Staker caught the restart kick and Malivoire kicked into the home half, but Stow centre Angus Hayward burst through an attempted tackle near the left touchline and set off on a run which took him past a series of missed tackles. As he neared the line, he released Toby Stayt, and the flanker touched down under the posts for a try.

Abbey continued to pile on the pressure inside the home 22, with the House brothers and Jones taking play close to the line.

Just before half time Abbey lost the ball just inside the home half, and Stayt broke clear. He ran over 50 metres, outpacing the Abbey backs chasing him, and he touched down under the posts for a spectacular try. Roberts converted to put Stow 19-7 up at half-time.

Things got worse for the visitors quickly after half time, when Abbey’s backs failed to contain Marks near the right touchline. He burst out of a weak tackle and handed on to supporting lock Ben Collett, who crossed for the bonus point try. Roberts sent his conversion attempt to the left of the posts.

Play was moved swiftly to the right, where Collett was allowed far too much space. The second row almost strolled over for his second try in six minutes, and when Roberts’s conversion bounced over via a post Abbey trailed 31-7.

Abbey raised their game again from this point onwards, and for much of the remainder of the contest they pounded away inside the Stow 22. Unfortunately, promising moves were frequently ruined by handling errors, and the best efforts of the pack often went unrewarded. A good run from Shackleford was stopped five metres from the line, and Hunter was forced into touch after an excellent bout of handling, but Abbey just couldn’t get the ball over the line.

Finally, in the 58th minute, a sniping run from Bevan took play into the Stow 22. Staker, Simmons, Postlethwaite and Leach all handled and Bevan finished what he’d started by diving over for a try. Shackleford was unable to convert.

With 10 minutes remaining Abbey’s cause was boosted when Stow’s replacement lock Max Fisher was yellow-carded. Abbey opted to scrummage from the resulting penalty, and after several phases, Beckly forced his way over for Abbey’s third try. Shackleford could not convert.

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