Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Drake’s brace helps Abbey clinch title and back-to-back promotions

ABBEY sealed their back-to-back promotions in style last Saturday with six tries to Bicester’s

ABBEY sealed their back-to-back promotions in style last Saturday with six tries to Bicester’s two in a match that saw Steve Drake bag a brace for the hosts.

The result could not be taken for granted as Bicester are one of two clubs to beat Abbey in the league earlier in the season. With Abbey forced to make six changes, the Rosehill faithful had their doubters as they turned out in numbers to give their support.

The front row saw two changes. In came Ollie Charlton and Luke Daniels; Elko Titcombe de Bie, returning from Redingensians, came into the second row for injured Chris Shaw; Mike Beckly started in place of Ed House in the back row, and the half backs, two talented individuals, were playing as a pair for the first time.

Both sides wanted to play running rugby, getting the ball away from the pack and looking to move it amongst the backs. Play was ambitious as the ball was passed around but Abbey moved it wider and quicker to mount the greater danger. Bicester struggled to spread the ball beyond their centres but when they did they too posed a real threat.

Abbey’s running from deep was another a potent weapon, Gavin Dampies and Arron Ross finding gaps to exploit. Winger Dylan Baptista had a good game as he was named man-of-the-match; his catching and running back was powerful, he regularly burst through two or three tacklers before Bicester could stop him. Kieran Machin at scrum half had a rapid pass and Steve Drake at outside half knew where to play the ball, from hand or from boot.



Abbey had the first chance from a penalty kick after Baptista, Dampies and Ross combined well to put Bicester’s defence in disarray. With the ball bouncing back from the posts into play number eight Will Woodward took possession and after strong drives from Sam Hallett and Elko, Woodward crossed the whitewash wide out for the first try.

The second try came 23 minutes in after Luke Burns and Tom Waterhouse worked well together before putting Gavin Dampies over. The third came five minutes before the break with Baptista putting in a powerful run before feeding to scrum half Drake to touch down. Waterhouse, marshalling those around with skill, converted two tries and put over a penalty.

Bicester had been restricted to a solitary penalty goal from centre Tom Miles, their possession being snuffed out by Abbey’s sound defensive work.

At 22-3 ahead at the break Abbey’s undefeated home record for the season looked secure, especially after prop Tim Brain staying out wide profited from yet another Baptista run. Bicester then rallied and a quick thinking tapped penalty saw winger George Upton race away to snatch back a try.

The visitors then had their best period of play coming into contention and making it a real contest. Abbey did not help themselves by allowing their line-out play to fall apart, losing five throw-ins in succession. Bicester failed to find a way through, then Abbey took two late tries, one from Baptista and another from Drake, Waterhouse adding one lot of extras.

The final word came from Bicester, on the stroke of full time as scrum half Mike Harris grabbed a consolation try, converted by Miles which then brought the final whistle which signalled the start of celebrations for Abbey – champions and promoted for the second year in succession.

Abbey: Brain, Charlton (Fungai, 67 mins), Daniels, Titcombe de Bie (Knights, 54 mins), Hallett Sam, Hallett Joe, Beckley, Woodward, Machin, Drake, Ross, Burns (Love, 72 mins), Waterhouse, Baptista, Dampies.



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