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1st XV - Match centre

Reading Abbey
Stow-on-the-Wold
Sat 24 Mar TBC - South West Division - Southern Counties North Full time

Abbey 35 Stow-on-the-Wold 13

Skipper Will Bevan scored a hat trick of tries against his former club as Abbey defeated Stow-on-the-Wold in an enjoyable encounter at Rosehill.

Abbey 35 Stow-on-the-Wold 13

Mark Hoskins

Skipper Will Bevan scored a hat trick of tries against his former club as Abbey defeated Stow-on-the-Wold in an enjoyable encounter at Rosehill. The home side was forced to defend in the early stages against a strong visiting pack, but as the game progressed, Abbey’s confidence grew, and they crossed for six tries in total. Head coach Luke Harding skilfully rotated his back row players throughout the game, and the starting trio of Maurice O’Connell, Matt Gingell and Mike Beckly, together with replacement Ed House, all made telling contributions to the victory.

Nothing looked less likely than a home win in the early stages of the game. Stow threw everything at Abbey, dominating territory and possession, with prop Lewis Chapman and second row Andrew Piercy both getting close to the line. Abbey’s discipline too was at fault early on as they conceded a string of penalties. Fortunately though, the home tackling was impressive, with winger Matt Seabourne, prop Adam Postlethwaite, full back Jack Lambert-Taylor and centre Charlie Shackleford all making vital stops in their own 22.

After ten minutes of play, Abbey were still under enormous pressure, and at this stage O’Connell brought off two big tackles as Stow continued to storm the line. Winger Ted Holmes nearly gave the visitors the lead, but he was held just short of the line in the left corner. Further penalties were conceded, and eventually Stow decided to go for goal from one of these. Scrum half Dave Hill duly obliged with a good kick to give the visitors a deserved lead. It could have been a lot worse for Abbey at this stage.

A bout of passing involving Seabourne, centre Arron Ross, Lambert-Taylor and winger Daniel Norville, briefly took Abbey into Stow territory, but two more penalties were conceded. From the second of these, Hill opted to go for goal from 38 metres, but his kick drifted wide to the left. Then Bevan kicked out of defence, and Norville and second row Chris Shaw made good ground. Soon after this, Abbey were awarded their first penalty, and Lambert-Taylor’s subsequent kick set up a good position in the Stow 22. Second row Treacle Knights won the ensuing lineout, and Bevan and Shaw combined well as Abbey neared the visitors’ line. Postlethwaite actually crossed the line, but he was held up and Abbey were awarded a five metre scrum. Stow were penalised at this, and Gingell landed a simple penalty to level the scores after 23 minutes. At this point, Richard King replaced the hardworking Will Waring in Abbey’s front row.

Beckly caught the restart kick and fed Shaw, who made good ground towards the halfway line. O’Connell kicked into space, and Stow conceded another penalty at the next ruck. Lambert-Taylor sent another good kick to the Stow 22, and Shaw won good lineout ball. Abbey began to look a real threat in attack, and Ross linked well with Bevan and O’Connell as play got closer to the Stow line. The visitors conceded a further penalty, and Lambert-Taylor kicked for the corner. Shaw won the lineout, and King came very close to crossing for a try, before an Abbey knock-on spoiled a promising phase of play and gave Stow a scrum five metres from their own line. However, despite looking to be under considerable pressure at previous scrums, Abbey managed to win the ball against the head, and Bevan broke for the line and crossed for a try wide on the right. Gingell could not convert, but Abbey were ahead after nearly half an hour of play.

Two minutes later Beckly was yellow-carded for hands in the ruck. Originally the referee had mistakenly singled out Abbey’s outside half Theo Evered as the culprit, but Beckly owned up rather than see somebody else be given the punishment. The binning coincided with the introduction of House instead of Gingell. Shaw then did well to steal possession from a Stow throw at the next lineout, and once again Abbey looked dangerous. Two drives from O’Connell and a testing high kick from Bevan kept the pressure on Stow, and Abbey were awarded a scrum 25 metres from the visitors’ line. Bevan was tackled and driven backwards as the ball left the scrum, but in an amazing turnaround, he spun round 180 degrees, broke away from his tackler and sprinted all the way to the line to touch down under the posts. Lambert-Taylor converted to put Abbey 15-3 up. Beckly returned from the bin just before the break, and there was no further score in the first half.

Waring came back on for King at the start of the second half, with James Bourne replacing Norville. Abbey attacked at once, with Beckly and Ross both making good ground before hooker Ollie Charlton was bundled into touch close to the Stow line. Then Knights won a lineout just inside his own half, and a brilliant move resulted in Shaw making a 20 metre break towards the left. Abbey’s ever-impressive second row drew his man superbly before giving a scoring pass to Bevan. The skipper still had a fair bit of work to do, but he was well ahead of his pursuers as he touched down for his hat trick try. Lambert-Taylor was unable to convert from wide on the left, leaving the score at 20-3 to Abbey.

Abbey’s tails were really up now, and the collective confidence of the team was now very apparent. Charlton again made good ground with a fine run, and then Waring showed great strength in managing to stay on his feet and set up a maul after he was stopped by the opposition. The ball came back to Bevan, who broke towards the left, and the supporting Charlton raced the final 30 metres for an excellent try wide on the left. This gave Abbey their bonus point. The conversion attempt was wide, and at this point Gingell returned to the action, with O’Connell going off for a deserved rest.

Stow had nothing to lose at this stage, and for the next few minutes they monopolised possession much as they had done at the start of the match. Piercy again looked dangerous, but it was skipper James Holmes who eventually scored after Abbey had left too wide a gap on the left. Hill could not convert from the touchline, and almost immediately Abbey produced the ideal riposte with their fifth try of the afternoon. Beckly picked up from the base of a scrum in the Stow 22, and House was up in support to score a try wide on the right. Gingell’s conversion attempt dropped short, but it was now 30- 8 in Abbey’s favour after an hour of play.

King came on again for Waring, and Knights made a good break for Abbey, but it was Stow who scored next. Chapman drove over from close range after 66 minutes, and with Hill off the field injured, James Holmes tried the conversion. He was wide with his attempt, and Abbey were soon back on the attack again. Ross made a good 20 metre break, receiving support from King and Beckly. Play was now inside the Stow 22, and Evered and Lambert-Taylor moved the ball to the right in a rapid bout of passing. The result was a try wide on the right for Seabourne. It looked as if the winger had been tackled over the line, but he managed to roll clear and get the ball down. This time Beckly tried the conversion, but to no avail.

There was still plenty of time for further scoring, and both sides had their chances. A good tackle from Shaw halted James Holmes, and a move involving King, House and Charlton nearly resulted in a score. Norville returned to the action, replacing Seabourne, and both he and Lambert-Taylor had good runs. Evered and Bevan launched one final Abbey attack in the quest for more points, but after Shaw was tackled the game ended with Abbey in full control.

This was a very welcome victory for Abbey. Having withstood the early pressure, they played with increasing confidence and evident enjoyment. Some of the tries were vintage Abbey, and there was much to admire throughout the team. Seabourne looks a real find, Shaw and Bevan were their usual consistent selves, and as mentioned above the back row was excellent. With this sort of form, Abbey’s players will be itching to get back to action after next weekend’s Easter break.

Abbey: J Lambert-Taylor, M Seabourne (D Norville 77), C Shackleford, A Ross, D Norville (J Bourne 40), T Evered, W Bevan (captain), W Waring (R King 24-40, 63), O Charlton, A Postlethwaite, J Knights, C Shaw, M O’Connell (M Gingell 50), M Gingell (E House 32), M Beckly

Stow-on-the-Wold: B Wrench, E Holmes, J Pearson (A Hayward 40), J Holmes (captain), W Holmes (J Verden 40), B Hoyles, D Hill (W Holmes 61), L Chapman (J Britton-Jones 50), L Glazebrook, R Kilby, A Piercy, M Fisher (L Chapman 61), T Rose, O Pearson, E Lockey

Abbey:
Tries: Bevan (3), Charlton, House, Seabourne
Con: Lambert-Taylor
Pen: Gingell

Stow-on-the-Wold:
Tries: J Holmes, Chapman
Pen: Hill

Yellow card:
Abbey: Beckly

Referee: K Jones (Eastern Counties)

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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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