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1st XV - Match centre

Reading Abbey
Gosford All Blacks
Sat 3 Feb 14:30 - South West Division - Southern Counties North Full time

Abbey 5 Gosford All Blacks 23

Abbey’s players suffered a collective off day in the mud and drizzle at Rosehill, losing to Gosford All Blacks, the second-from-bottom team in Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North.

Abbey 5Gosford All Blacks 23

Mark Hoskins

Abbey’s players suffered a collective off day in the mud and drizzle at Rosehill, losing to Gosford All Blacks, the second-from-bottom team in Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North. The visitors, who had won only once previously this season, got the basics right on a heavy pitch and fed off Abbey’s numerous errors. Two interception tries were conceded in a particularly poor second half display, and this was a match Abbey will want to forget very quickly.
Abbey’s lack of discipline – a constant failing throughout the afternoon – was evident as early as the opening minute. They conceded a free kick at the first scrum, and after the visitors took a quick tap Abbey offended again, this time conceding a full penalty. Scrum half Tim Ellis landed the subsequent goal kick to give Gosford a lead they were destined never to lose.

Full back Jules Greenaway caught the restart kick for Abbey and linked well with winger Dan Norville. Scrum half Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen broke clear inside his own 22, but the ball was lost in the tackle. Abbey applied encouraging pressure at the next scrum and won themselves a penalty, and after outside half Jack Lambert-Taylor had found a good touch, skipper Treacle Knights secured clean lineout ball. Abbey attacked through second row Chris Shaw and winger Ryan Williams, and there were further encouraging signs when prop Richard King and flanker George House combined to rob the visitors of the ball at a ruck. But after Greenaway’s chip and chase nearly created some space for Williams, two more penalties were conceded in quick succession. From the second of these Ellis kicked successfully for the posts and Abbey were 6-0 down after 13 minutes.

Abbey hit back almost at once. Gosford knocked on the restart kick, and after centre Arron Ross made the initial break, Shaw drove into the visitors’ 22. Centre Charlie Shackleford then made a brilliant break towards the right, and after hooker Adam Postlethwaite provided good support, Ross went over for a good try in the corner. De Marcilla Bahlsen pulled his conversion attempt wide to the left, but Abbey looked to be getting their game together at this stage. Soon afterwards, Jack Saunders replaced King in the home front row.
The next ten minutes saw Abbey attacking inside the opposition half, but whenever they looked like breaking through to score, either a knock on occurred or they conceded a penalty. There was also rather too much aimless kicking during this period, and Abbey missed the chance to turn the game round. Greenaway, Shaw and prop Ollie Charlton started a promising move, but after No.8 Glynn Webster had made further ground the ball was lost. Some wayward kicking then handed the initiative back to Gosford, but a knock on by their hooker Liam Donnelly gave Abbey the ball after a dangerous break from outside half Harry Sutton. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s grubber kick took play back into Gosford territory, and after a run by Greenaway Abbey won a penalty. Lambert-Taylor found a good touch inside the 22, but after George House had tidied up the lineout ball a penalty was conceded.

Abbey continued to press, and de Marcilla Bahlsen’s best run of the game saw him tackled into touch just short of the line on the right. George House did well to pinch the Gosford throw at the ensuing lineout, but another knock on saw Abbey lose the advantage. Then, after Abbey forced Gosford to concede a five metre scrum, they wasted a superb position when de Marcilla Bahlsen was robbed at the base of the scrum by No.8 Dan Bullimore. Knights won the next lineout throw for Abbey and Shaw and Ross attacked towards the left. Postlethwaite picked up and drove, receiving good support from Greenaway. The visitors conceded two more penalties in quick succession, the second of them meriting a team warning from referee Ritchie Denver, and Lambert-Taylor’s kick sent Abbey back into the Gosford 22. Shaw won the lineout, and after he had been driven five metres, Charlton broke clear on the left and ran to the line. Unfortunately, he put a foot in touch just before he crossed for what would have been a fine individual try. He was then penalised for his reaction and another good position was lost.

Williams, Shaw, Ross and Shackleford had decent runs in the final minutes of the half, but yet again a penalty was conceded when Abbey reached the opposition 22 and a frustrating 40 minutes ended with Abbey still trailing 6-5. Changes were made at the interval, with Ben Finnie replacing George House and King returning in place of Charlton.

The second half began with Greenaway and Norville attacking from deep. This led to de Marcilla Bahlsen and Shackleford taking play into the Gosford 22, but Abbey lost the ball after taking a tap penalty and second row Rich Tyler broke clear for the visitors. Lambert-Taylor lost possession just inside his own half and then sent an ill-directed kick towards his own 22. Gosford regained possession, and after a series of passes Sutton broke to the left and gave a scoring pass to supporting flanker Dan Hughes. Ellis saw his conversion attempt bounce wide via a post, but his side now led 11-5.

George House returned in place of the injured Webster, with Ed House moving from the flank to No.8. Abbey took play up to the visitors’ 22 yet again, but another de Marcilla Bahlsen break was ruined by a knock on and then Abbey were penalised again. After 50 minutes of play Tom Burns came on for Williams with Ross moving to the wing. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if Burns had been tried at outside half with Lambert-Taylor doing a shift at nine, but it was not to be. In the event, Ross certainly tried hard to make things happen in his new position whenever the ball came his way.

A brilliant catch on the run by Greenaway followed by a great kick ahead saw Gosford fumble the ball five metres out. George House was up in quick support, and it appeared that the visitors had knocked the ball forward. However, they were allowed to clear their lines, before Abbey regained the ball and, via Postlethwaite, Shackleford and Burns, took play back into the Gosford 22. Here sadly, Lambert-Taylor’s pass to the right was intercepted by Sutton who raced the length of the field to score a try wide on the left. Ellis could not convert, but Abbey had fallen further behind after nearly an hour of play.

From here on, things got worse and worse for Abbey. A 15 metre break by Ross was wasted when the ball was knocked on, and this happened again when de Marcilla Bahlsen broke inside the 22. Then, to the horror of the watching home spectators, Abbey lost a scrum against the head five metres from the Gosford line and right under the shadow of the posts. Charlton returned in place of King and immediately combined well with Burns in a good attacking move. Postlethwaite’s clever pick up kept the ball alive, but Sutton intercepted again, this time from Burns, and he nearly scored again after a long run.

A 40 metre Greenaway dash concluded with the by-now almost obligatory Abbey knock on, and then a penalty was conceded after Burns had made good ground. Gosford now looked increasingly comfortable, and their forwards drove 15 metres after winning a lineout. A further drive to the right corner saw them held up over the Abbey line, at which point King came back for the injured Saunders. Shaw and Ross tried desperately to attack from deep in their own half, but again Abbey lost the ball. Time was now running out, but there was simply no sign of Abbey mounting a late recovery. Then, with time almost up, Sutton again intercepted a Lambert-Taylor pass and ran 70 metres to touch down under the posts. Ellis’s successful conversion took his side to 23-5, at which point Mr Denver’s final whistle put Abbey out of their misery.

Credit must be given to Gosford All Blacks for playing sensible, no-frills rugby on a difficult surface. They combined well as a team, did nothing remotely flashy and took their chances when Abbey made mistakes. That said, this was a poor home performance for which no real excuses can be offered. Even without key players such as Gavin Dampies, Ben Mitchell, Will Woodward and injured skipper Will Bevan, Abbey would have hoped to have taken five points from this game. They made far too many handling errors and failed to alter their tactics in a dire second half when they really needed to be battering away at the visitors’ line from close range. At no time did we see the prolonged forward drives which were a feature of the spirited second half recovery in the game against Buckingham, and the Gosford eight was rarely tested close to the line. Lessons will surely be learnt from this disappointing afternoon of rugby, and there is plenty for new head coach Luke Harding to work on before Abbey face High Wycombe in a fortnight.

For the record, eight of the Abbey squad were involved in the 33-10 victory at Gosford All Blacks earlier in the season, while eleven of the Gosford side played in that game.

Abbey: J Greenaway, R Williams (T Burns 50), A Ross, C Shackleford, D Norville, J Lambert-Taylor, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, O Charlton (R King 40-60), A Postlethwaite, R King (J Saunders 20-74), J Knights (captain), C Shaw, G House (B Finnie 40), E House, G Webster (G House 45)

Gosford All Blacks: B Bodinham (captain, J Groves 67), S Malton, M Johnson, A Schwarz, T Price, H Sutton, T Ellis, M Selvey, L Donnelly, T Bates, A Simm (L Beesley 74), R Tyler, L Burbidge, D Hughes, D Bullimore. Not used: S Fouracre

Try: Ross

Gosford All Blacks:
Tries: Sutton (2), Hughes
Con: Ellis
Pen: Ellis (2)

Referee: R Denver (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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