Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Abbey overcome early scare to maintain unbeaten record

ABBEY had to work harder than might have been expected to continue their unbeaten run at

ABBEY had to work harder than might have been expected to continue their unbeaten run at the top of Berks, Bucks and Oxon Premier last Saturday.

Visitors Abingdon, secure in the league for another season and with nothing to lose, gave them a bit of a scare at Rosehill, scrummaging and tackling well and even taking the lead in the first quarter but Abbey raised their game when they needed to, and they always looked likely winners.

A stiff breeze tended to favour the visitors in the first half and they started strongly. Abbey were shoved backwards at an early scrum, and Abingdon could have gone ahead after five minutes had they elected to kick for goal after being awarded a penalty in front of the posts. However, they decided to test Abbey’s scrum again and botched things by knocking on.

After this Abbey showed signs of the form which has seen them carry all before them this season. Flanker Joe Hallett and second row Chris Shaw, who pinched Abingdon’s line out ball on a number of occasions during the afternoon, both made ground from breaks, while prop Ollie Charlton broke through with a 20 metre burst. Skipper Sam Hallett carried the move on, but when fullback Tom Waterhouse chipped to the right the bounce eluded centre Arron Ross.

Abingdon took the lead in the 13th minute when number eight Gareth Smith made a 20 metre break before giving a scoring pass to scrum half Ollie Young. Outside half Mark Roberts added the conversion.

The score served as a wake-up call to Abbey and after Joe Hallett had broken the gain line Waterhouse sent Ross on his way to the line but the centre put a foot in touch on the visitors’ 22. Abbey scored their first try at the start of the second quarter when Ross moved the ball to the left and winger Kaspar Strugar did well to squeeze over in the left corner before he was tackled. Waterhouse sent the difficult conversion attempt to the right of the posts.

Abbey almost scored again straight from the restart. Ed House, who had a fine afternoon in the home back row, caught Roberts’ kick and ran back at the opposition. Then, after Abingdon had temporarily stolen the ball, Ross intercepted and was tap -tackled when he looked to be in the clear. Scrum half Will Bevan took a quick tap penalty but the ball was knocked on. After this, centre Dan Love brought off two excellent tackles as Abingdon went on the attack again.

It took Abbey until the 34th minute to take the lead. Sam Hallett and Love made the initial ground and after outside half Tom Bird and Waterhouse moved the ball to the right Charlton sprinted clear to score. Waterhouse’s touchline conversion bounced wide off a post as Abbey led 10-7 at half-time.

Abbey scored a good try three minutes into the second half when Joe Hallett again made ground inside the Abingdon 22, Love ran to the left and passed to Waterhouse, and the fullback dummied before sprinting over the line. He then added the conversion.

Sam Hallett, House and replacement forward Knights all ran well after this, but Abbey’s play gradually became ragged. Line-outs were lost, Abingdon’s pack continued to pose a threat at the scrums and an increasing number of home passes failed to go to hand.

After 57 minutes Smith collected a pass from Roberts and raced clear for a well-deserved try. Roberts could not convert, but the try took Abingdon to within five points of Abbey’s score.

Another break from Roberts caused more home concern, but after 63 minutes poor defence gifted Abbey a bonus point try. Bird’s kick into the visitors’ 22 saw the Abingdon backs make hash of the situation, Abbey claimed the ball and Bird put Ross over the line. Waterhouse could not convert.

With less than 10 minutes remaining Waterhouse made a huge amount of ground with a kick and from the ensuing pressure Bird kept a cool head to drop a goal.

With the game won, Abbey looked to add further scores, and hooker Martin Collier made a good run in the Abingdon half. Sam Hallett and Bird both probed for openings, but sadly the ball rarely came the way of replacement threequarter Dylan Baptista, whose father had paid a surprise visit from Zimbabwe to witness the game.

The final minutes were played out close to the visitors’ line. Number eight Mike Beckly made a break from the rear of a scrum and after replacement Fungai Mutepfa was stopped just short of the line, Shaw drove over. Referee Carl Pearce decided that Shaw had been held up.

Abbey finished the match with a fifth try, although it was not of their making. Abingdon left winger JJ Viner failed to call a mark after catching a high kick, and he compounded his error by sending a rushed clearance kick straight into the arms of House. The flanker had the simple task of running to the line to score, taking Abbey’s total to 30. Waterhouse had left the field by this time, and Beckly’s amusing unsuccessful attempt to convert the try ended the game.

Abbey: T Waterhouse (K Strugar, 71 mins), S Warwick (D Baptista, 40 mins) A Ross, D Love, K Strugar (S Warwick, 55 mins), T Bird, W Bevan, O Charlton, M Collier (F Mutepfa, 55 mins), A Postlethwaite (M Collier, 60 mins), S Hallett, C Shaw (J Knights, 40 mins), E House, J Hallett (C Shaw, 71 mins), M Beckly.

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