Abbey 17 Windsor 14
Abbey just edged home in a tight and enthralling encounter in the battle of the newly-relegated teams at Rosehill in the opening Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North clash of the season.
Reading Abbey 17 Windsor 14
Abbey just edged home in a tight and enthralling encounter in the battle of the newly-relegated teams at Rosehill in the opening Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North clash of the season. Each side scored a single try in a match in which both teams defended resolutely, and the decisive score was a brilliantly judged penalty from scrum half Diego De Marcilla Bahlsen at the start of second half injury time. What looked like a nasty neck injury to Abbey wing Matt Mclellan at the beginning of the second half saw the remainder of the game moved to a different pitch, and much of the third quarter was played in heavy rain punctuated by thunder.
Abbey’s new second row Anthony Deacon claimed the Windsor kick off at the start of the game, and soon afterwards he won the first lineout of the afternoon. The Windsor pack attempted to pressurise thrower Adam Postlethwaite, a prop playing in the unaccustomed role of hooker, but he was equal to the challenge and his first throw was good. However, Abbey soon offended in a kickable position, but Windsor full back Jake Driscoll sent his penalty attempt wide to the right from thirty-eight metres out.
Full back Gavin Dampies launched a quick restart from the twenty-two, but Abbey were soon penalised again, and this time Driscoll made no mistake from in front of the posts. But Abbey shrugged off this early setback, with centre Kaspar Strugar charging down a kick and debutant winger Remi Norville making good ground with a twenty metre run. Then centre Ben Mitchell, who had an impressive and influential first half, released Dampies, but the full back was held well short of the line.
Windsor attempted to drive Abbey backwards at the first scrum of the game, but the pack controlled the ball well and No.8 Will Woodward and second row Chris Shaw made good ground. Several phases of play saw Abbey attacking through Dampies, McLellan, flanker Ed House and prop Ollie Charlton. A try looked likely, and it came after thirteen minutes when skipper Will Bevan, playing at outside half, broke to the left in the Windsor twenty-two and sent Mitchell on his way to the line. The centre had a bit of work to do, but he accelerated superbly to cross for an excellent try. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion attempt from close to the left touchline kept too low, but Abbey now had the lead.
Shaw secured the restart for Abbey, but after Windsor were rather fortunately awarded a lineout when the referee missed a ball touched in flight, the visitors were awarded another kickable penalty. Once again Driscoll missed a relatively straightforward kick, and soon Abbey were back on the attack. Mitchell was heavily involved once more with good support from Charlton, Postlethwaite and McLellan, but De Marcilla Bahlsen’s kick to the corner was slightly over hit and Windsor were able to drop out. Then Mitchell ran again after catching a high kick. He was supported by Woodward and Shaw, after which Bevan and prop Jack Saunders made further ground.
A long pass from Mitchell gave McLellan a run, and after Deacon had won a lineout Dampies ran twenty metres before losing possession. At this point Windsor lost their big prop Alex Williams to injury, but the visitors mounted some dangerous attacks soon afterwards. Hooker James Winter and flanker Chris Emmett both looked good in the loose, while it took a good tackle from Mitchell to stop his opposite number Matt Balmer. A good touch kick from Strugar relieved the pressure, and when Windsor attacked again Charlton intercepted and put Shaw away on a twenty metre run. From the next phase of play Bevan was high-tackled on the Windsor twenty-two and De Marcilla Bahlsen put Abbey 8-3 up after thirty-six minutes with the resulting penalty.
The remainder of the half saw Abbey defending frantically in their own twenty-two as Windsor produced perhaps their best rugby of the afternoon. Emmett and Balmer were again prominent as a series of drives tested the home defence, while Woodward, House and Shaw all made important tackles. Unfortunately for Abbey, Shaw was yellow-carded in first half injury time after being caught offside in the red zone. Driscoll found the target with the subsequent penalty and Abbey’s lead was reduced to 8-6 at the break.
A good kick and run from Dampies put Abbey on the front foot at the start of the second half, but Windsor skipper Neil Baggett got very close to the home line when his side counterattacked. Play was then halted for seven minutes with McLellan lying prone on the ground. His injury was clearly a bad one (the ambulance was still parked on the pitch at the final whistle) and the game was moved to the parallel pitch for the rest of the game. Theo Evered replaced McLellan with De Marcilla Bahlsen moving to the wing and Bevan to scrum half. Almost immediately the heavens opened, drenching players and spectators alike. Windsor seemed to adapt more quickly to the new surroundings and the deteriorating weather, and they took the lead for the first time in the fifty-third minute when outside half Jack Gaylor jinked his way to the line after a series of attacks. Crucially for Abbey, Driscoll again missed the conversion.
This might have been the moment when the visitors had visions of dominating proceedings, but to their great credit Abbey hit back at once and instantly looked dangerous. They were awarded a scrum in the Windsor twenty-two, and despite still lacking Shaw they held the ball through flanker Mike Beckly. Then Beckly tapped a free kick and made ground, receiving support from Postlethwaite, Deacon and Bevan. Saunders broke through a minute later, after which Windsor were penalised on the edge of their twenty-two. De Marcilla Bahlsen made no mistake with his kick and the scores were level.
Shaw returned from the bin, but Windsor were the next to attack. House put in an important tackle close to his own line, and then Gaylor knocked on when a try seemed possible. Strugar limped off at this point with Matt Gingell, normally a flanker, replacing him and slotting in on the wing. For the next few minutes Abbey looked on top with Woodward, Evered, Shaw and Mitchell all running well, but such was the end-to-end nature of the second half that Windsor themselves enjoyed another spell of dominance soon afterwards.
As the half wore on it became clear that Abbey’s scrum had got the better of the Windsor eight, and they turned the screw in this department by sending on the massive Richard King at prop for the final stages of the game. Windsor attempted to move the ball wide, and winger Harry Woolman made thirty metres with a good run up the right touchline. Then left winger Gary Morgan was stopped in the corner after another Windsor attack. The visitors continued to press, and eventually Abbey were penalised in their own twenty-two. Driscoll had been replaced by this time and Gaylor took over the kicking duties, landing a good goal to restore his side’s lead after seventy-three minutes of normal time.
Once again Abbey put this setback behind them and went back on the attack. Windsor were awarded a scrum thirty metres from their own line, but a mighty shove from Abbey sent them backwards. The visitors were penalised and De Marcilla Bahlsen kept his head to land another good kick to level the scores once more. Two minutes of normal time now remained, though it was clear that there would be at least ten minutes of injury time following the earlier delay. Again Abbey attacked with Woodward, Shaw and House to the fore, and two minutes into injury time they were awarded a penalty wide on the left. There might have been a case for opting for a five metre scrum, but with time running out the decision was taken to go for goal. In what was to prove the pivotal moment of the half, De Marcilla Bahlsen judged a difficult kick from close to the left touchline to perfection, the ball just creeping over the bar to put Abbey ahead for the first time in half an hour.
Could Windsor hit back again? They certainly made every effort to do so, and Abbey defended magnificently over the next few minutes. In an acknowledgment of Abbey’s superiority in the scrums, the visitors opted for a second lineout when an Abbey throw was crooked. One Windsor drive close to the line was held up thanks to Woodward, while there was a let-off for Abbey when Woolman knocked on near the line. Then Norville produced a crucial piece of defence, picking up a loose ball two metres from his line, dodging past two attackers and then sending a superb touch kick thirty metres upfield. It was a remarkable piece of cool-headed play from the young winger. Three minutes later, with Windsor still attacking desperately and Abbey tackling like demons, it was all over. A superb spell of defence at the end had seen them home against a very good Windsor side.
There was very little to choose between the sides in this game, particularly in the second half when both teams seemed to dominate in turn. A case could be argued that a draw might have been a fair result, and things might have been a bit different if Driscoll had landed more of his goals. But Abbey were certainly stronger in the scrum, while their defence and ball retention near the end was most impressive. This really was a team effort, though Mitchell, Woodward, Shaw and House all had outstanding games. Full credit too to De Marcilla Bahlsen for his perfect second half kicking display. Every kick he took was a pressure kick, and his cool head and accurate boot were crucial.
Abbey: G Dampies, M McLellan (T Evered 43), K Strugar (M Gingell 62), B Mitchell, R Norville, W Bevan (captain), D De Marcilla Bahlsen, O Charlton, A Postlethwaite, J Saunders (R King 69), A Deacon, C Shaw, E House, M Beckly, W Woodward
Windsor: J Driscoll (B Anderton 59), H Woolman, N Baggett (captain), M Balmer, G Morgan, J Gaylor, J Cullen, T Bascombe, J Winter, A Williams (T Noakes 26), G Jupp (A McGroaghty 59), M Stanton (G Jupp 69), B Monsey, C Emmett, T Skevington (M Stanton 75)
Pen: De Marcilla Bahlsen (4)
Pen: Driscoll (2), Gaylor
Referee: J Taylor (Hertfordshire)