Woodward’s late bonus-point try helps Abbey extend lead
ABBEY played a tactically astute game in difficult conditions at Swindon College Old Boys to record
ABBEY played a tactically astute game in difficult conditions at Swindon College Old Boys to record another invaluable bonus point victory in Southern Counties North.
The visitors overcame a boggy pitch and strong wind, scoring two tries in each half and rarely allowing the home side to attack.
Title rivals Aylesbury’s failure to register a bonus point in their 19-0 victory over Marlow means that Abbey now lead the table by five points with a game in hand.
The wind was blowing straight across the pitch at the start of the game, making both accurate kicking and line-out throwing difficult.
Flanker Chris Shaw and second row Sam Hallett both disrupted College line-outs in the opening 10 minutes, though there was a shock for Abbey in the early scrums. They were pushed back at the opening set piece and turned at the second, but after this the pack settled down well and there were no further scrummaging problems.
Some early home pressure was resisted thanks to fine tackling from flanker Ed House and centre Dan Love, while fullback Gavin Dampies claimed a useful mark from a towering high kick.
Abbey set up camp in the home 22 at the end of the first 10 minutes and despite a good clearance kick from College outside half Simon Addis, the visitors were soon laying siege to the line.
Abbey scored their first try in the 22nd minute. They won a five metre line out, and after Hallett had fed Woodward the number eight powered his way over for a try in the right corner. Waterhouse drew his difficult conversion attempt to the right of the posts.
The wind grew noticeably worse after this and Drake twice did well to direct his kicks safely to touch. Love, Strugar and House began an attack on the left hand side before Shaw set up a maul following a good line out catch. The ball was moved infield where Hallett spotted a gap and charged 20 metres, taking play back into the home 22. His pass to the right found Dye and Dampies was on hand to take Dye’s pass and run in to score in the right corner. Waterhouse scored the conversion to put Abbey 12-0 up with just over half an hour played.
Love, Woodward, Toland and House were all involved in the next bout of handling, before Abbey were awarded a penalty 35 metres out on the left touchline. Surprisingly, given the conditions, the decision was taken to go for the posts, but Waterhouse again defied the elements to land a fine goal.
After this College looked dangerous in attack and it needed stout defence from Woodward and the rest of the pack to prevent prop Michael Bisley from scoring in the final move of the half. The whistle sounded for the break with Abbey 15-0 ahead.
The visitors made two changes to their pack at the start of the second half, replacing Charlton with Tim Brain and second row Knights with Mike Beckly.
Shaw, Dampies and Waterhouse made good ground with the first handling move of the half, after which home skipper Matty Allen did well to clear the ball when he was under pressure on his own line.
After Hallett and Woodward had again burst through the home defence, Abbey were penalised close to the try line. Shaw stole another College line-out, after which the home side made Abbey’s cause a little easier by throwing the ball crooked at the next two line-outs. Will Bevan replaced Drake at scrum half for Abbey, and he soon made an impression with his snappy passes and darting runs.
Brain made the next effective burst, and this led to Abbey’s third try. Bevan, Brain for the second time in the move and then Strugar all kept the ball alive and Hallett was on hand to cross the line in the left corner. Waterhouse’s conversion attempt was a good effort, but the wind took the ball just wide to the right.
Woodward made three good breaks in the next 10 minutes, but on each occasion the supporting player was stopped.
College had to play a few minutes with only 14 men on the field as they had run out of replacements for injured players, but they were back up to full strength as the game entered the final five minutes.
At this point Abbey were on top, winning possession almost at will and forcing College to concede a string of penalties close to their own line.
In the 81st minute Woodward broke again and Toland was put in the clear to cross the line for the vital score. Waterhouse could not convert, but Abbey had achieved their bonus point.
Abbey: G Dampies, D Baptista, T Waterhouse, D Love, K Strugar (S Drake, 67 mins), J Dye, S Drake (W Bevan, 49 mins), O Charlton (T Brain, 40 mins), M Toland, F Long (O Charlton, 65 mins), J Knights (M Beckly, 40 mins), S Hallett, C Shaw, E House, W Woodward.