An enlivened Abby team showed an enthusiasm that lifted their efforts. They crossed the try line seven times in all, three being correctly ruled out by a forward pass or by an unsighted referee. The score could easily have been a fifty pointer. Spirit and confidence are sky high.
Arun Gupta and Tom Bryson made welcome returns to the pack and their contribution was enormous. Gupta as tight head prop evened up Lee Waite’s imposing presence as loose head. Together they not only stabilised scrums, but often drove Olney backwards ; it meant hooker John Holden could do his job properly and have energy around the pitch. Simon Allison partnered Bryson in the second row, excelling in the line out and loose. Having a solid front row makes life easier for everyone.
Glen Hunt started in the centre instead of coming on from the bench. His organisation tightened up defence from the start. And Tom Waterhouse looked and played the complete centre.
It has to be said Olney were not the strongest of opponents, missing six players, including two of their stars, from last year. But the style of Abbey’s win will gift them a huge boost.
The travelling supporters of the Rosehill outfit showed their insecurity by fretting at the delayed arrival of the team bus. But it mattered not - within ten minutes Tom Waterhouse and Aaron Ross had found gaps in Olney’s defence to cross the try line, only for their efforts not to count through the final passes being forward. It was Waterhouse’s boot that put the early three points on the board. Twenty minutes later Aaron Ross, always a threat, pressured a defender in the try area, Ross touching down for his second try, Waterhouse adding two points.
Abbey had their own errors to blame for that being the half time score line, 10-0. It was Olney that had the concerns, compounded by Ross’s second try four minutes after the re-start. Olney had started the second half with some spirit, but they struggled in the scrum and lineout and their backs posed no real threat, and what threat there was, was snuffed out by good defensive work.
Steve Willis, finishing the game at no.8 having persuaded skipper Keith Wilkinson to swap positions, barged over for a try, 70 minutes in and Sam Butcher at fly half, playing with ever growing confidence, finished off a fine handling movement to wrap up the bonus point win just three minutes afterwards. His rapid response when Olney took a quick throw in just outside Abbey’s 22, saw him steal possession , sprint up field, interchange passes and, with a defender on his back dived for the try. The referee had been stranded by the speed of thought and foot, and when he eventually arrived decided not to give the score. Bad luck, Sam.
James Kerr came off the bench at the break to make his senior team debut on the flank . His contribution was impressive, full of intelligence, pace and sensible play. He was unlucky to be sin binned, picking up a team yellow card in the final quarter, after the referee had given a general warning about technical illegalities.
Olney having failed to threaten Abbey’s line, did manage a late consolation try wide out on the corner flag. But nothing should detract from Abbey’s improved performance.
Team : Waite, Holden, Gupta, Bryson,Allison, Selby, Willis, Wilkinson (capt), Heath, Butcher, Ross, Hunt, Waterhouse, Gingell, Dampies. Reps : Kerr ( 40th min), not used Hurst, Reddy.
Scores : Waterhouse, pen 4 mins, conv ; tries Ross x 2, 22mins, 44 mins, Willis 51mins, Butcher 53 mins