Saturday, 05 December 2020

Wallingford have no answer to Abbey

ABBEY battled well against a competitive Wallingford side on a heavy Rosehill pitch to record

ABBEY battled well against a competitive Wallingford side on a heavy Rosehill pitch to record victory in Southern Counties North.

The home side scored a try in each half with centre Tom Waterhouse providing the rest of the team’s points with good goal kicks, and the win, coupled with Aylesbury’s shock defeat at Bletchley, sends Abbey back to the top of the table with a game in hand.

This was a game of phases, with first one team and then the other dominating territory for long periods. Wallingford had the better of the early exchanges, spending much of the first 15 minutes in the Abbey 22. Outside half Steve Drake kicked sensibly in defence for the home side, while skipper Mike Beckly and second row Sam Hallett both made important runs when the pressure was on.

Winger Bryn Savil also put in an important clearance kick in the early stages, while Beckly cleared up loose possession at a scrum in the home 22. Wallingford skipper Jermaine Webster looked particularly dangerous with ball in hand, but Abbey’s defence stayed firm.

Abbey finally broke out of their own half after 17 minutes when Drake released Gavin Dampies. The fullback always looked impressive in open field, but on this occasion he lost his footing in the visitors’ 22 but after flanker Chris Shaw had recovered possession on the floor, Abbey were awarded a penalty and Waterhouse landed a kick from 35 metres.

Wallingford went back on the attack with Dampies showing his worth in defence with an important tackle. Flanker Ed House launched a move which saw Dampies and winger Charlie Gingell take play back into the Wallingford half.

After 32 minutes of hard graft Abbey stretched their lead when, after Shaw had won a line out, scrum half Will Bevan broke clear and crossed for a try wide on the right. Waterhouse’s conversion attempt was right into the breeze, but he landed the goal from the touchline.

Again, Wallingford took play into the Abbey 22 and Drake twice dived to pinch the ball in open play. Shaw again won crucial line-out possession and then Dampies and Savil broke away in a move which saw the latter stopped just short of the try line.

The final minutes of the first half were spent in the visitors’ 22. Waterhouse had a chance to increase his side’s lead with another penalty, but his attempt drifted to the right, leaving Abbey 10-0 up at the break.

Waterhouse was back on target right at the start of the second half, kicking a 30 metre penalty. Then, from the restart, Hallett made good ground before Dampies and prop Tim Brain attacked up the right-hand side of the pitch.

Abbey spent the bulk of the third quarter in the Wallingford 22, putting pressure on the visitors’ scrum in the process. House brought off a tackle on prop Antony Marris and then Brain and Waterhouse nearly created a try in the right corner.

Luke Daniels replaced Brain in the front row and he made his presence felt with a tackle on his opposite number Jack Greenway. Kieran Machin replaced Bevan at scrum half and he too made an early impression with his speedy passes.

The Abbey pressure continued and after second row Knights won possession on the floor, Waterhouse was narrowly wide with another penalty attempt. Centre Tom Burns combined well with Dampies and Gingell as another attack developed, but he was injured soon afterwards and Bevan returned to the field in the centre. Still Abbey attacked, and they finally got their reward after 63 minutes when Waterhouse and Dampies handled before Gingell ran clear for a try in the left corner. Waterhouse could not add the extras from a tricky angle.

Dampies looked a threat once more with a 30 metre break, but the final 10 minutes saw play switch to the other end again. Wallingford were awarded a series of penalties close to the home line, and eventually Hallett was yellow-carded as Abbey defended desperately.

Tempers flared at the end as a fight broke out on the touchline as referee Melanie Liley quickly restored order. The game finished soon afterwards with Abbey celebrating not only a valuable victory but a clean sheet as well.

Abbey: G Dampies, B Savil, T Waterhouse, T Burns (W Bevan, 61 mins), C Gingell, S Drake, W Bevan (K Machin, 52 mins), T Brain (L Daniels, 46 mins), M Toland, F Long, J Knights, S Hallett, C Shaw (M Eldridge, 67 mins), E House, M Beckly.

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