Abbey 13 Wallingford 14
Abbey endured a frustrating afternoon in their match with Wallingford.
Abbey 13 Wallingford 14
Abbey endured a frustrating afternoon in their match with Wallingford. They dominated territory for long periods, especially in the first half, but they failed to create enough scoring chances. Ultimately, missed goal kicks cost them the game, but on the positive side they played with great heart and nearly grabbed a winning try in the frantic final exchanges.
The home side started positively, with second row Chris Shaw and prop Ollie Charlton both making good breaks. Prop Martin Collier made further ground and centre Arron Ross sent a chip kick into the Wallingford 22. Advantage was being played to Abbey, and when none ensued they were brought back for a penalty 38 metres from the posts. Flanker Matt Gingell had kicked with great promise in last week’s game against Thatcham, but his effort on this occasion dropped well short.
Full back Gavin Dampies ran the ball back at Wallingford when they kicked ahead after the missed penalty, and Ross and No.8 Mike Beckly worked play back into the visitors’ 22. Skipper Will Bevan and Shaw continued the attack, but Wallingford centre Harry Robins intercepted a pass from Ross and burst clear. He made a good 40 metres, but fortunately Dampies pursued and caught him. Bevan sent a high ball back into Wallingford territory, and winger Dan Norville and second row Treacle Knights nearly created room for Dampies to break. Then Knights made a break, and when the ball was lost in the tackle Wallingford kicked clear. Dampies caught it and raced 30 metres before he was halted. Abbey were awarded a penalty and Bevan took a quick tap to take play back into the Wallingford 22 again. At this point winger Max Suttner was shown a yellow card, giving Abbey a one man advantage.
Unfortunately, Abbey lost the subsequent lineout, the first of a series of throws they failed to control in the opening quarter. When they got possession back again, Collier and Beckly drove well. Collier made a further ten metres, and then Ross released Matt Seabourne wide on the right. The winger made it into the visitors’ 22 but was then tackled into touch. Abbey continued to attack, but they lost two more of their own lineouts as the game neared the end of the first quarter. Outside half Theo Evered and Beckly attacked well from deep, and once again Abbey were in the Wallingford 22. Luke Daniels replaced Collier in the front row, Gingell, Bevan and flanker Ed House attacked after Abbey had won a scrum, and Wallingford conceded another penalty. The position was an easier one, but Gingell sent the ball fractionally to the left and the sin bin period ended with Abbey having failed to benefit from numerical advantage.
House made a good 25 metre break for Abbey as they continued to dominate territory, and after a tap penalty Dampies burst into the 22 and nearly put Shaw clear. Wallingford applied pressure at the next scrum, but Beckly protected the ball well and another high ball from Bevan kept his side at the correct end of the field. From this point onwards Abbey’s lineout improved, with hooker Adam Postlethwaite throwing to Knights at the front of the line. Gingell broke from a maul, and Bevan, Ross and Charlton combined well before Wallingford were penalised again. Second row Connor Murphy was sent to the bin and this time Gingell found the target with his kick. It had taken Abbey 37 minutes to break the deadlock.
No.8 Ian Jeffreys made a good break for Wallingford, but Gingell stopped him. Abbey were then penalised some 40 metres from their line, but they were caught napping when winger Pete McKinley took a quick tap. He cut through to the right corner, and supporting full back Dan Sadler crossed for a good counterattacking try. Crucially, skipper Phil Dawes converted from close to touch, and half time arrived with Wallingford leading, having soaked up no end pressure. They also had the psychological advantage of having scored while they had a man off the field.
Collier returned for Daniels at the start of the second half, with Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen replacing Norville. Jeffreys began the half with a dangerous 20 metre break, but when the ball went loose Dampies picked it up and set off on one of his characteristic dodging runs. He outwitted the defence over 30 metres, and when the ball was recycled Ross was up in support to run 15 metres to touch down for a great try in the left corner. It was the perfect start to the half for Abbey, and de Marcilla Bahlsen was unlucky to see his well-struck touchline conversion attempt drift just wide to the right.
Shaw gathered the restart kick for Abbey and Dampies ran well again before losing the ball in the tackle. Ross made 15 metres to get Abbey back into Wallingford’s 22, and Evered and centre Charlie Shackleford continued the move with support from House. The visitors scrambled the ball clear, but Ross attacked again with another great run. However, the Wallingford defence remained impregnable and they were boosted when Murphy returned from the bin. Further Abbey attacking saw Collier make 10 metres, while Ross and de Marcilla Bahlsen made ground inside the 22. Shaw, Bevan and Beckly got close to the line, but Abbey conceded a penalty and Wallingford kicked for safety.
Ben Finnie came on for Shaw after 51 minutes, but he had scarcely been on the field when Wallingford scored another try. Again the creator was McKinley, who really was a thorn in Abbey’s side whenever he got the ball. This time his quick tap took him on a 30 metre run towards the right. Centre Sam Botting was up in support, and he did well to back himself and make it all the way to the line. Again Dawes kicked an excellent conversion and the visitors led 14-8. Wallingford looked increasingly confident now, and they played their best rugby of the game. Another 40 metre break from McKinley took play back into Abbey’s 22, and the visitors came close to creating a try after a spell of pressure near the home line. Eventually Abbey were awarded a penalty in the shadow of their posts, and they benefitted from an extra 10 metres when Wallingford disputed the decision.
Knights won good ball at the front of the lineout and Abbey made 20 metres with a brilliant maul. Daniels returned to the field, this time in place of Charlton, but another run from McKinley relieved the pressure for Wallingford. Collier did well to steal the ball at a ruck, and a good break from Gingell resulted in Abbey winning a penalty. Bevan found touch on the halfway line, Finnie won the lineout and Ross and Collier attacked and won another penalty. For the third time in the match Wallingford received a yellow card, this time for flanker Nathan Chapman. Abbey attacked with purpose from the penalty, and Ross, Dampies and de Marcilla Bahlsen launched a move which saw Evered stopped not far from the line.
With 10 minutes of normal time remaining Norville returned, replacing Seabourne, while Shaw returned in place of Gingell. Knights won good lineout ball once again, and an incredible 30 metre maul developed as Abbey got well inside the visitors’ 22. Beckly, Postlethwaite and Daniels all made ground, and when the ball was moved to the right Dampies and Norville got close to the line. Again the ball was recycled, with Bevan and Shaw nearly getting clear, and at last Bevan found a gap after collecting the ball from a ruck. He sprinted over the line and touched down fairly close to the posts. Abbey’s players celebrated, and nine times out of ten it would have been a safe bet that the conversion would be a formality for de Marcilla Bahlsen. Sadly this was the tenth time, and the kick went wide to leave Abbey point behind with five minutes left.
It was all Abbey now, with Finnie, Beckly and Norville all putting in good runs. Collier again performed wonders at a ruck, and then, right at the end of normal time, de Marcilla Bahlsen attempted a penalty from 35 metres and to the right of the posts. Once again he was wide of the target, but there were still three minutes of injury time left for Abbey to rescue the game. The Wallingford sin bin ended, but Abbey threw everything into attack in a final desperate effort to claim the win. They kept possession brilliantly in the final play with Shackleford, Finnie, Daniels and Collier all prominent. House took the ball well inside the 22, but eventually, to the frustration of the home crowd, the ball was knocked on and the final whistle sounded.
This could so easily have been an Abbey victory, but full credit must go to Wallingford for taking their chances, defending well and playing controlled rugby when Abbey had a one man advantage. With hindsight it might have been useful for de Marcilla Bahlsen, a more experienced goalkicker, to be on the field from the start, but no blame should be levelled at either of Abbey’s kickers. With the amount of territorial advantage they had, Abbey should have created sufficient chances to win the match irrespective of kicks at goal. On the plus side, the squad is looking increasingly settled, and various players are beginning to make their mark in the first team. Collier in particular looked good, especially in the loose, while Bevan, Ross, Dampies, Shaw and Beckly looked as reliable as ever. Second-placed Windsor away will be a challenge in Abbey’s final game of the season, but the future looks brighter if the squad can stick together.
Abbey: G Dampies, D Norville (de Marcilla Bahlsen 40), C Shackleford, A Ross, M Seabourne (D Norville 70), T Evered, W Bevan (captain), M Collier (L Daniels 20-40), A Postlethwaite, O Charlton (L Daniels 61), J Knights, C Shaw (B Finnie 51), M Gingell (C Shaw 70), E House, M Beckly
Wallingford: D Sadler, P McKinley (M Suttner 82), S Botting, H Robins, M Suttner (C Jenkins 67), T Swainston, P Dawes (captain), J Greenway, J Norris, C Irwin, C Murphy (E Searle 58), C Tappin, D Baxter, N Chapman, I Jeffreys. Not used: J Hayden
Tries: Ross, Bevan
Tries: Sadler, Botting
Con: Dawes (2)
Wallingford: Suttner, Murphy, Chapman
Referee: D White (Berkshire)