Thatcham 41 Abbey 27
Abbey were beaten by the better side at Thatcham, but they contributed fully to an entertaining match and the result was in doubt until the final few minutes.
Thatcham 41 Abbey 27
Abbey were beaten by the better side at Thatcham, but they contributed fully to an entertaining match and the result was in doubt until the final few minutes. The visitors were outscrummaged for much of the afternoon, but they were always competitive and were unfortunate not to come away with at least one bonus point. The result sees Abbey drop to eighth place in Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North with two games still to play.
Abbey suffered the worst possible start to the game, going behind after just three minutes. They were pushed off the ball at the opening scrum, and after Thatcham moved the ball to the right, winger Sean Richardson crossed for a try in the corner. Full back Joe Leadley was unable to convert – a tricky crosswind made goalkicking difficult, particularly in the first half – and Abbey put this early setback behind them with some promising attacks. No.8 Mike Beckly did superbly well to rescue possession at the base of a retreating scrum – he was to do much if this throughout the match – and after good driving runs from flanker Maurice O’Connell and second row Chris Shaw, outside half Theo Evered kicked to the left corner. Second row Treacle Knights stole the Thatcham throw, and skipper Will Bevan set up drives close to the line for prop Martin Collier and hooker Adam Postlethwaite. Eventually, after a good run from Knights, centre Arron Ross was held up over the line. Advantage to Abbey was being played, and when the penalty was finally awarded, flanker Matt Gingell kicked the points to put Abbey on the scoreboard after 11 minutes.
Thatcham centre Marty Butler made the first of several impressive breaks when play restarted, and Abbey soon suffered a blow when Knights was yellow-carded. However, the visitors continued to attack, with O’Connell and Ross prominent, and Abbey won another penalty 40 metres out. The kick, well to the left of the posts, was not an easy one, but Gingell landed it brilliantly to put Abbey one point ahead. Shaw protected possession well from the restart kick, and after Beckly again rescued the ball at the scrum Ross, O’Connell and Shaw ran well to take Abbey close to the home 22. They were awarded a third kickable penalty, but Gingell sent this one to the right of the target. At this point Knights returned from the bin with Abbey having scored three points to nil in his absence.
With Bevan directing play well and Ross and O’Connell continuing to impress with some excellent running, Abbey maintained a presence in the Thatcham half of the field. In the 26th minute they won another penalty, and this time Gingell goaled it from 35 metres to put Abbey 9-5 ahead. However, the visitors were soon behind again, surrendering a lead they were destined never to regain. Just two minutes after Gingell’s penalty, Thatcham scrum half Danny Shaughnessy took a quick tap penalty inside the Abbey 22 and Richardson sprinted over on the right for his second try. Again Leadley was unable to convert. One minute later Abbey suffered a grievous blow when O’Connell was helped from the field after suffering an injury. Fortunately, they were able to call upon Ed House as a capable replacement, but O’Connell’s penetrating runs would be missed.
Bevan sent prop Ollie Charlton away on a good run into the home 22, but after possession was lost Thatcham counterattacked well and earned a penalty 40 metres from the Abbey posts. Leadley went for goal but missed, but minutes later he landed a much simpler effort to put his side 13-9 up. Back came Abbey again with Beckly, Postlethwaite, Knights and House all handling well in a prolonged bout of passing. Shaw and Ross continued the attack, and the outcome was another Abbey penalty. Gingell was successful from 38 metres and Abbey were now just a point behind again. Unfortunately, as the first half drew to a close, Charlton was binned for a deliberate knock-on, and despite the efforts of Ross and Shaw to mount attacks, Thatcham began to monopolise possession. Flanker Tim Apperley and skipper Mark Smith, both of whom had impressive games, combined well to create an opening in the visitors’ 22, and the latter broke clear to score a try to the left of the posts. Leadley’s conversion made the half time score 20-12 to Thatcham.
Despite being a man down at the start of the second half, Abbey again scored while they had numerical disadvantage. Within two minutes of the restart, House and Ross attacked up the left wing. Bevan continued the move, and his pass back to Ross gave the battling centre a thoroughly deserved try. Gingell was unable to add the extras, and Abbey were soon forced to defend again after Shaughnessy and outside half Derek Allan took play back into the visitors’ 22. Here Butler again proved a handful for the Abbey defence, and he broke clear to score on the right to give Thatcham a bonus point try. Leadley’s conversion made the score 27-17.
A good touch kick from full back Jack Lambert-Taylor sent Abbey back into the home half soon after the restart, and after Knights again stole opposition lineout ball Collier and Bevan got close to the line. Shaw was held up just a metre short, after which home hooker James Thorogood was yellow carded. His departure coincided with the return of Charlton for Abbey. The visitors scented another try, and they attacked with purpose in the left corner, with Ross again leading the way. Eventually, after 50 minutes a series of drives culminated in replacement prop Luke Daniels touching down for Abbey’s second try, a score which Gingell was unable to convert.
A long spell of Thatcham pressure followed. Winger Daniel Norville did well to halt a run from Mark Smith, and Beckly again worked wonders at the base of a retreating scrum in his own 22. Bevan and Ross did their best to work the ball clear of the danger area, but a penalty was conceded which Leadley sent to the right of the posts. Thatcham’s sin-bin period was now over, but Abbey managed to work the ball back into the home half, where a promising series of attacks developed. Ross was again to the fore with good support from Evered and centre Charlie Shackleford. Both Evered and Ross got close to the line, and when Abbey mounted another drive Postlethwaite crossed for their third try. Gingell missed a difficult conversion attempt, and the scores were now level at 27-all with 16 minutes remaining.
It was at this stage that the Thatcham pack really took control of the set piece. They won a series of scrums in the Abbey 22, and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors would concede another try. Almost inevitably, when the score came it was a pushover try, Mark Smith touching down and Leadley adding the conversion. With around ten minutes now remaining, Abbey made every effort to draw level once again. House, Shaw and Postlethwaite all made ground, Lambert-Taylor kicked for the corner, and Evered and winger Matt Seabourne took play close to the line. Replacement Jim Bourne and Lambert-Taylor nearly created a score wide on the right, and at this point Abbey’s chances of at least getting back on level terms received a boost when Leadley was sent to the bin. Bevan took a quick tap from the subsequent penalty, and Collier and Beckly nearly got to the line. Then the visitors were given another penalty, this time directly under the posts. With five minutes left there was time for Gingell to land the simple points on offer and for Abbey to attack again, but instead they opted for a scrum. This seemed a strange decision in view of Thatcham’s superiority at the set piece, and they duly shoved Abbey off their own ball and booted it way down into the visitors’ half.
This proved to be the defining moment of the match, as Abbey were now penned back close to their 22. Mark Smith and Shaughnessy made good ground to the left and winger Jack Harwood was on hand to cross for the match-winning try in the left corner. In Leadley’s absence, Shaughnessy kicked a brilliant touchline conversion, and despite the best efforts of Ross and Shaw in the dying minutes, Abbey were unable to score a consolation try to claim a bonus point.
This was an enjoyable game of rugby. Thatcham deserved to win, but Abbey took them all the way and never allowed them to relax. Butler, Mark Smith and Apperley were the stars for the home side, while Ross, Shaw, Beckly and, before he was injured, O’Connell stood out for Abbey. Ross in particular looked to be on top form and many of Abbey’s best attacks stemmed from his efforts, while credit too should go to Gingell for some good goalkicking. There was no disgrace in losing a match of this quality, and Abbey can approach their final home game against Wallingford next Saturday with confidence.
Abbey: J Lambert-Taylor, M Seabourne, C Shackleford, A Ross, D Norville (J Bourne 61), T Evered, W Bevan (captain), M Collier (L Daniels 49-80, O Charlton 81), A Postlethwaite, O Charlton (M Collier 74), J Knights, C Shaw, M O’Connell (E House 29), M Gingell, M Beckly (L Daniels 40-49)
Thatcham: J Leadley, S Richardson (N Rance 63), M Butler, S Smith, J Harwood, D Allan, D Shaughnessy, D Chambers (J Caunt 26-61, J Thorogood 81), J Thorogood (J Evans 26), L Davies (J Thorogood 46-61), R Browne, J Moore, T Apperley, C Dixon (L Davies 49-61), M Smith (captain)
Tries: Ross, Daniels, Postlethwaite
Pen: Gingell (4)
Tries: Richardson (2), M Smith (2), Butler, Harwood
Con: Leadley (3), Shaughnessy
Abbey: Knights, Charlton
Thatcham: Thorogood, Leadley
Referee: J Dowds (Buckinghamshire)