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1st XV - Match centre

Reading Abbey
Sat 20 Jan TBC - South West Division - Southern Counties North Full time

Abbey 7 Buckingham 26

Abbey went down to a gallant defeat against a strong Buckingham side.

Reading Abbey 7 Buckingham 26

Mark Hoskins

Abbey went down to a gallant defeat against a strong Buckingham side. The visitors, with outside half Max Nagy in outstanding form, dominated the first half and built up a 19-0 lead, but the home pack responded superbly after the break and had territorial advantage for long periods. However, the visitors’ defence was as impressive as their attack, and for all their efforts Abbey’s only reward was a single converted try.

A heavy surface and persistent rain suggested that this would be a forward-orientated encounter, but both sides tried to move the ball in the early stages. Abbey held their own at the opening scrum, and when they were driven backwards at the second set piece skipper Will Woodward protected the ball well. Outside half Luke Burns twice kicked well out of defence, and second row Treacle Knights won good possession at the front of the first lineout. A dodging run from centre Ben Mitchell took Abbey as far as the Buckingham 22, but after Burns and Knights had launched promising drives, a penalty was conceded. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a recurrent theme in the opening 40 minutes; whenever Abbey got into a decent position, they spoilt it by being penalised.

Centre Arron Ross collected a loose ball in his own 22 and ran well, while another high kick from Burns sent play back into the Buckingham half. However, Nagy received the ball and set off on a mazy 30 metre run. He passed right to Craig Coxon, and the visitors’ winger broke clear up the touchline and cut inside to touch down for an excellent try. Nagy converted to put his side 7-0 up after eleven minutes. Abbey scrum half Jack Lambert-Taylor kicked long to put Abbey back on the attack, and Mitchell did well to stop his opposite number Jamie Lee with a good tackle. But the visitors attacked again, and after a great run from veteran second row Stuart Tomkinson, winger Tom Warren was bundled into touch just short of the line. Knights again won good ball at the front of the lineout, but after Lambert-Taylor’s kick just failed to find touch Buckingham counterattacked. This time, in a reversal of roles, Craig Coxon began the move and Nagy finished it. The outside half took his winger’s pass and glided through with deceptive pace to touch down under the sticks. Needless to say, he added the subsequent conversion to double his side’s lead.

The second quarter began with Abbey forced to defend once again, and they conceded a penalty close to the halfway line. The ensuing kick set up a good position for Buckingham inside the 22, and the pack drove to the line to cross for the third try. Flanker Will Cooper got the ball down, but Nagy saw his conversion attempt bounce wide off the left post. Shortly afterwards, Richard King replaced Will Waring in the home front row. After this, Abbey kept possession for a lengthy period with Ross and flanker Mike Beckly both initiating good moves. Lambert-Taylor and Burns both kicked well for territory, and after a break up the middle of the field by Mitchell and good support from full back Jules Greenaway, flanker George House was stopped five metres from the line. Things were looking a little more promising for Abbey at this stage, but again a penalty was conceded and Buckingham kicked clear.

Shortly after this, Abbey were penalised inside their own half and Nagy attempted a long-range kick at goal. His effort dropped well wide of the target, and Mitchell and hooker Mark Toland worked the ball clear. Another promising bout of Abbey handling followed, prompted by a high kick from Lambert-Taylor. Second row Chris Shaw ran well, and Woodward, Knights (twice), Toland and prop Adam Postlethwaite all handled before the ball was lost in the Buckingham 22. Their scrum half Joe Chalmers then made a brilliant break from well inside his own half. The ball eventually went out of play and King tapped down the subsequent lineout, but after Burns and winger Charlie Shackleford had worked the ball up the touchline, another penalty was conceded. Nagy again opted to try a long-range goal kick, but again his attempt dropped wide. The half ended with King driving well for Abbey and receiving good support from Postlethwaite and Greenaway. But after another penalty was conceded, the half ended with Buckingham well worth their 19-0 lead.

Abbey swapped George House for his brother Ed at the start of the second half, and they were soon in the visitors’ 22. Winger Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen put Woodward clear for a 30 metre run, after which Mitchell, King, Shaw and Postlethwaite linked well. Burns and Knights continued the attack, and when Buckingham were penalised Lambert-Taylor kicked for the corner. Frustratingly, Abbey lost the lineout, but they won the next throw through Shaw. Woodward drove again, and after Toland and Burns ran well, Mitchell lost the ball in the tackle. It was more than apparent by now that the Buckingham defence was going to be very hard indeed to crack.

Shaw stole a Buckingham throw, and Woodward, King, Lambert-Taylor and Knights launched the next phase of attacking. Mitchell, Ross, Postlethwaite and Beckly all handled as Abbey battered away inside the 22. Beckly and Shaw were stopped short of the line, and then both Woodward and Toland got close. Then it seemed that Shaw must get over, but he got the ball to the ground agonisingly short of the line. But Buckingham were penalised for persistent offside, and No.8 Phil Wright was yellow-carded. With their tails up, the Abbey pack elected to take a scrum from the penalty, and a huge drive saw Woodward plunge over for a deserved try. De Marcilla Bahlsen added the conversion, and there was a glimmer of hope for Abbey.

Beckly, Burns and Lambert-Taylor soon put Abbey on the attack again, but after Knights and Mitchell made ground in the 22 the ball was lost. The excellent Buckingham defence refused to buckle as Woodward drove for the line, and following a tap penalty, Ross, Knights, Burns and Toland kept Buckingham under pressure with good runs. In retrospect, it might have been wiser for Abbey to kick for goal when the penalty was awarded, and soon afterwards the visitors were restored to a full side with the return of Wright.

Toland was injured shortly afterwards, Ollie Charlton replacing him in the front row with Postlethwaite moving to hooker. Postlethwaite soon made a good ten metres for his side with Woodward in support. Then Knights made 15 metres, receiving strong backing from King and Burns. Ross ran well inside the 22, but when Buckingham gave away another penalty, Lambert-Taylor kicked too far and a chance was wasted. Again, a kick at goal might have been a more productive option. De Marcilla Bahlsen and Mitchell then had promising runs, before Mitchell made a further 20 metres. Abbey would not give up in their search for a second try, with Knights and King going close, but once more the visitors’ defence was equal to anything thrown at it.

As the game entered injury time, Shackleford and Mitchell both made good ground. King took a nasty knock and Waring returned in his place, and after this, almost for the first time in the second half, Buckingham established a good position in the home 22. Abbey conceded a penalty, and from the ensuing lineout Wright dived over for a bonus point try which clearly meant a huge amount to the visitors. Nagy converted brilliantly from close to the right touchline and the final whistle sounded straight afterwards.

This was a good game of rugby played in challenging conditions. Buckingham showed everybody why they are second in the table. Their defence was awesome at times, and they were vocal and fired-up throughout. In Nagy they had an exceptional young talent who looked well capable of playing at the higher level. That said, Abbey can be proud of their efforts. They were probably the better side in the second half and the final margin of defeat was a little harsh. The forwards performed superbly in the second half. Knights was outstanding in the loose, Postlethwaite was impressive and King has never looked better. Woodward looked his usual dangerous self, and Abbey would surely have scored more tries but for Buckingham’s incredible defence. Abbey have now dropped to seventh place in the table, but they will hope to return to winning ways when they visit Drifters next Saturday.

Abbey: J Greenaway, C Shackleford, A Ross, B Mitchell, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, L Burns, J Lambert-Taylor, A Postlethwaite, M Toland (O Charlton 65), W Waring (R King 30-87), J Knights, C Shaw, M Beckly, G House (E House 40), W Woodward (captain)

Buckingham: T Hoey, T Warren, J Coxon (M Hawker 17), J Lee, C Coxon (M Glendenning 85), M Nagy, J Chalmers, C Dumbarton, S Williams, M Payne (captain, S Tomkinson 65-69), J Barker, S Tomkinson (J Kayll 43), M London, W Cooper, P Wright

Try: Woodward
Con: De Marcilla Bahlsen

Tries: C Coxon, Nagy, Cooper, Wright
Con: Nagy (3)

Yellow card:
Buckingham: Wright

Referee: N Curtin (Berkshire)

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League table

# Team Pl Pts
6. Wallingford 22 61
7. Reading 22 57
8. Reading Abbey 22 47
9. High Wycombe 22 41
10. Stow-on-the-Wold 22 30
11. Gosford All Blacks 22 18
12. Drifters 22 2

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