Wallingford 34 Reading Abbey 27
Abbey had their moments at Wallingford, particularly when they were able to make use of their speedy backs.
Wallingford 34 Reading Abbey 27
Abbey had their moments at Wallingford, particularly when they were able to make use of their speedy backs. They scored four good tries and looked especially impressive in the first half, but eventually they had to give second best to a strong home pack. Cruel luck with injuries, a sadly recurring theme in Abbey’s season so far, certainly did not help their cause, while three of the visitors were shown yellow cards in the second half.
In a bright start, second row George House won the opening lineout of the game, and a long kick from full back Gavin Dampies took Abbey into the opposition half. A forward drive brought Abbey to the Wallingford twenty-two, and when scrum half Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen was impeded, a penalty was awarded. De Marcilla Bahlsen had no problem in securing the points from an easy position, and Abbey led after four minutes.
A poor restart kick gifted Abbey further possession, and soon afterwards they scored an excellent try. The ball was moved to the right, where Dampies cut through into the home half. He then fed winger Remi Norville, who sprinted up the touchline before using his speed and strength to outwit the Wallingford defence as he crossed the line. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s brilliant touchline conversion took Abbey to 10-0.
Second row Chris Shaw claimed the restart kick, but Abbey lost possession and the Wallingford pack initiated a series of drives. They got closer and closer to the Abbey line, and in the tenth minute they got their first try when prop Jack Greenway plunged over in the right corner. Skipper Phil Dawe was unable to convert, but there were already ominous signs that Abbey faced a stern battle to claim supremacy up front.
However, the visitors continued to look confident when the ball was moved wide, and they scored their second try after fourteen minutes. Outside half Jack Lambert-Taylor sent a crosskick towards the right corner, and when the home defenders failed to deal with an awkward bounce, Dampies had a clear run to the line. He touched down under the posts, making de Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion a formality.
Shaw again secured the restart kick, but the home forwards instantly looked dangerous again. Abbey were caught offside, and after Wallingford had kicked for the corner, only sound tackling from flanker Ed House and centre Tom Burns prevented a try. Then prop Ollie Charlton was penalised for an offside offence, and after a break during which his fellow prop Richard King was treated for an injury, Wallingford took a tap penalty. Again, good Abbey defence initially kept them out, but eventually flanker Nathan Chapman crossed to the right of the posts. Dawe again missed the conversion, but Abbey’s lead was now cut to seven points at the end of the opening quarter.
Hooker Adam Postlethwaite and skipper Will Woodward had good runs as Abbey tried to stretch the Wallingford defence, but when Burns and Dampies attempted to release Norville he just failed to grasp the ball and it went into touch. The subsequent lineout saw Wallingford launch a further attack, and their impressive No.8 Ian Jeffreys made a break of forty metres. He received strong support from the equally impressive second row Carl Tappin, and the latter supplied a scoring pass on the left for winger Ralph Smith. The conversion attempt was from a straightforward position, but Dawe missed again, leaving Abbey ahead by two points.
Now it was Abbey who looked dangerous once more, and after a good build-up from Burns and Dampies, Norville dived over in the right corner for his second try. De Marcilla Bahlsen was just wide with his conversion attempt, but the score was now 22-15 to Abbey after half an hour of play. Flanker Mike Beckly then did well to steal the ball for Abbey at a ruck, before Woodward made a good break, supported by a Lambert-Taylor kick. But Abbey were forced to make a change when King was hurt again. Mark Toland came on to fill in at hooker, with Postlethwaite moving to prop. Minutes later there was a long injury break while winger Charlie Shackleford received attention, and he was replaced by Jules Greenaway.
With the first half almost over, Wallingford got their bonus point try in spectacular fashion. Jeffreys got the ball just inside his own half and stormed through a gap in a brilliant charge to the line. Dampies was able to catch him, but he did not have the strength to stop him from touching down for a superb individual score. A change of kicker saw winger Max Suttner add the extras, and the scores were level. Greenaway and Norville had time to attempt one more attack after this, but the half ended with honours even.
Maurice O’Connell made a welcome return to first team action after a long break. He came on as a half time replacement for Beckly, and he made an instant impression with a twenty metre run. Ed House and Shaw gave him good support, and after further useful work from Charlton and Toland, George House was halted just short of the line. Unfortunately, Abbey were penalised at the next scrum and Charlton was sent to the sin bin. Amazingly, there were no further scrums during his absence, but when the binning period ended, it was King who reappeared instead. For much of this period Abbey were at the right end of the field. Shaw attacked well, and centre Arron Ross was prominent as Abbey tried to penetrate a solid defence. Norville had a good twenty metre run, well supported by Toland and O’Connell, while Greenaway more than once did well to deal with high kicks.
The hour mark passed with the scores still level, but there were again ominous signs that Wallingford were winning the forward battle. Whenever they drove from a lineout in the visitors’ twenty-two, they threatened to cross the line, and eventually they managed a fifth try when Chapman ran a good line to touch down under the sticks. Suttner again converted, and Wallingford led for the first time. Beckly returned to the action in place of George House, but soon afterwards Abbey lost Greenaway after he attempted to halt another burst from Tappin. With resources already stretched, Charlton had to return and play on the wing.
With less than ten minutes of normal time remaining (although as it happened there was quite a bit of injury time), Abbey made every effort to get back into the game. It was crucial that Dampies and Norville were given as much ball as possible, and after good breaks from Burns, Shaw, Ross and Ed House, Dampies eventually got possession in space just inside his own half. Away he went towards the right corner, and he timed his pass to perfection to give Norville his third try and bring up Abbey’s bonus point. Unfortunately, de Marcilla Bahlsen was just short of the target with his attempted conversion.
Shaw, Ross and Woodward attacked from the restart, but in two further blows to Abbey’s hopes, Ed House was yellow-carded and de Marcilla Bahlsen left the field with an injury. This involved a further reshuffle of the side, including George House acting as an emergency winger. Wallingford rightly sensed that the game was now theirs for the taking, and they got their sixth try as the game entered injury time, Jeffreys again crossing the line. Suttner’s missed conversion meant that Abbey were still in losing bonus point territory, and there was still time to snatch a draw with a converted try. But they soon found themselves reduced to thirteen men when Toland joined Ed House in the bin, and the game ended with Abbey being pushed off their own scrum ball.
This was a frustrating afternoon for Abbey’s players and supporters. It had all started so well, and both Dampies and Norville looked likely scorers whenever they were supplied with good ball. But the game was lost in the forwards, where Jeffreys and Tappin in particular punched endless holes in the Abbey defence. It should also be noted that Wallingford were without Jackson Sayce, their regular goalkicker, and he would almost certainly have converted several more of his side’s tries. With two points in the bag, Abbey did not leave Wallingford empty-handed, but in the end this was probably the right result.
Abbey: G Dampies, R Norville, A Ross, T Burns, C Shackleford (J Greenaway 38, O Charlton 71), J Lambert-Taylor, D de Marcilla Bahlsen (G House 79), O Charlton (R King 60), A Postlethwaite, R King (M Toland 35), G House (M Beckly 68), C Shaw, M Beckly (M O’Connell 40), E House, W Woodward (captain)
Wallingford: D Sadler, R Smith, S Botting, P Holton (B Roberts 67), M Suttner, T Swainston, P Dawes (captain), C Irwin, J Norris, J Greenway, C Murphy, C Tappin, T Hill (J Hayden 57), N Chapman, I Jeffreys (T Hill 86)
Tries: Norville (3), Dampies
Con: De Marcilla Bahlsen (2)
Pen: De Marcilla Bahlsen
Yellow cards: Charlton, E House, Toland
Tries: Chapman (2), Jeffreys (2), Greenway, Smith
Con: Suttner (2)
Referee: D De Bruyn (Oxfordshire)