ABBEY defeated Marlow fairly comfortably in a largely forgettable contest on a heavy Rosehill pitch, but their failure
ABBEY defeated Marlow fairly comfortably in a largely forgettable contest on a heavy Rosehill pitch, but their failure to secure a bonus point has cost them top spot in Southern Counties North.
Aylesbury’s 24-0 bonus point win over Bicester sees them lead the table on points difference, but Abbey do have the benefit of a game in hand.
Abbey began the game with confidence and could have taken the lead in the opening minute after Marlow were penalised for being offside. Fullback Tom Waterhouse struck his 40 metre penalty attempt wide to the right.
The hosts continued to attack and a try still looked on as the backs moved the ball to the left, but Marlow winger Matt Saunders managed to control the ball as he attempted to intercept. He fed his fullback, Howard Mears who had a clear 70 metre run to the line as all the Abbey players were up in attack. Outside half Connor McKillop missed the conversion attempt.
From the restart kick Abbey hooker Mark Toland made a 30 metre break and after outside half Steve Drake pegged Marlow back in their 22 with a well-placed kick, the visitors were penalised again and Waterhouse slotted over a simple kick to reduce the deficit to 5-3.
After 27 minutes Drake and centre Luke Burns created space for Dan Love to cross for a try under the posts. The centre was celebrating his 60th first team appearance and had led the side on to the field at the start of the game. Waterhouse’s conversion put Abbey 10-5 ahead.
Winger Charlie Gingell displayed good handling skills as Abbey launched another attack before Burns cut through the middle after Hallett had won a line-out. This resulted in another Abbey penalty and Waterhouse did well to land it from 35 metres. Number eight Danny Pawlett then dived on the ball to secure possession for Abbey as Marlow tried to attack. Another penalty took Abbey into the Marlow 22 but for once they lost the ensuing line-out. There was no further score in the first half, and this left Abbey 13-5 up at the break.
Abbey began the second half at speed with Waterhouse and winger Arron Ross both running well and Drake finding gaps with his kicking.
Both replacement Dylan Baptista and Hallett came within a couple of metres of the Marlow line after good runs and Abbey were awarded a penalty to the right of the posts.
Marlow prop Eddy Smyth was shown the yellow card and as he was going off his hooker, Martin Cook also had to leave the field with an injury. The visitors had already used Fe’ao Vunipola, their replacement prop, so until the binning period was over scrums had to be uncontested. Abbey had originally intended to take a scrum from the penalty, but in the circumstances it made better sense to kick for goal, and Waterhouse duly obliged to make it 16-5.
While they were still reduced to 14 men Marlow managed to cut the deficit with a penalty from McKillop but just before the visitors’ 15-man line-up was restored, Abbey scored their second try. Baptista broke towards the right and a pass from Waterhouse sent Ross on his way to the corner. He crossed the line and touched down, but because he was the victim of a high tackle as he dived, referee John Swart awarded a penalty try, giving Waterhouse a simple conversion kick. Abbey scored a third try 10 minutes from the end of normal time. Following an initial drive from Hallett, Drake and Waterhouse moved the ball to the right, and then a pass from Love sent Baptista over the line. Waterhouse converted to make it 30-8.
At this juncture a bonus point try looked a real possibility for Abbey, but Marlow proceeded to play their best rugby of the match. They mounted a series of attacks and scored a second try when winger Miles Noble crossed close to the posts, replacement Nick Carvey converting.
It was only at the very end that Abbey raised their game again as they went in search of the bonus point, and Gingell, Bevan, Waterhouse and replacement Fungai Mutepfa all handled well in the frantic final minutes. However, the fourth try remained elusive.
Abbey: T Waterhouse, A Ross (D Love, 72 mins), D Love (D Baptista, 40 mins), L Burns, C Gingell, S Drake, W Bevan, T Brain, M Toland, F Long (O Charlton, 74 mins), C Shaw, S Hallett, M Eldridge (F Mutepfa, 78 mins), M Beckly (capt), D Pawlett (F Mutepfa, 52-74 mins).