Abbey Nuns 31-12 Cullompton
READING Abbey Ladies’ title hopes took a massive boost last week as they earned a 31-12 victory over Cullompton.
Annette Tomas cancelled out an early try from the visitors, who looked the superior side in the opening quarter after crossing the whitewash first.
Alice Denton grabbed a brace either side of half time with Molly Wells also getting on the scoresheet in a much improved second period for the Nuns.
A Hayley Matthews try sealed the bonus point for Abbey, who now sit third in Championship SW Two but, a point behind Newbury Blues and Guildford Gazelles with a game in hand.
But it was far from a straightforward opening half for Jack Reynolds’s side, who were made to work inside a scrappy first quarter after going a try down as the visitors’ inside centre crashed over after sustained pressure in Abbey’s half.
But the hosts, after an uncharacteristic sloppy start, upped the tempo through a surged of positive play inspired by the forwards Jess Potter and Claire Stevens.
Annabel Hawkins also proved influential, making several strong carries and inspired periods of fast flowing rugby.
It was Meg Watts who fed fly-half Tomas for Abbey’s first, with Denton – who enjoyed a solid afternoon from the tee – adding the extras, before snatching a try of her own after a trademark storming run up the wing.
The second-half saw an improved Abbey display, as scrum-half Ellie Rice commanded her forwards well with energy and enthusiasm, which paid off when replacement prop Wells drove over for her side's third.
Denton grabbed her second after excellent play in the backs with wingers Lou Burgham and Hayley Matthews combining well to release her to run in underneath the posts unchallenged.
Abbey were now hunting for the bonus point and strong carries from the Fowler duo, Meaghan and captain Joey, ensured anther good field position from which to attack.
And four Abbey’s fourth, second-row Harriet Driver executed a well-timed pass to Tomas who found Matthews on a short line which saw her touchdown underneath the uprights.
With the bonus point now secure, Reynolds handed valuable game time to his bench but it was Cullompton who had the final say of the afternoon.
Successive Abbey penalties afforded the visitors a comfortable position in Abbey's 22 and a series of excellent carries from their pack finally released their dangerous fullback, who both crossed the line and converted her own score.
It was the blemish on an otherwise perfectly executed second half which reignited Abbey’s title hopes.