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1st XV - Match centre

Windsor
Reading Abbey
Sat 21 Apr 15:00 - South West Division - Southern Counties North Full time

Windsor 64 Abbey 8

Abbey were overwhelmed in the first half at Home Park against a Windsor side which had lost only once in 16 previous league matches.

Windsor 64 Abbey 8
Mark Hoskins

Abbey were overwhelmed in the first half at Home Park against a Windsor side which had lost only once in 16 previous league matches. The game as a contest was over well before half time, but the visitors showed great character in the second half and avoided a far more embarrassing final scoreline.

Windsor need to win to wrap up second place in Wadworth’s 6X Southern Counties North, and they soon had points on the board. Abbey flanker Ed House fumbled the kick-off, and after home No.8 Chris Emmett was held close to the line, the visitors conceded a penalty. The kick was from a simple position and full back Jack Gaylor had no problem in opening his side’s account. Flanker James Winter ran the ball back at Abbey from the restart, and after the visitors were awarded a scrum, No.8 Mike Beckly performed his customary miracle in rescuing possession as Abbey were pushed backwards. But Windsor quickly regained the ball, and after an initial break from Matt Balmer, his centre partner Patrick Birch broke clear to touch down for a try to the left of the posts. Balmer and Birch impressed throughout the first half and caused Abbey’s defence no end of trouble. Gaylor’s well-struck conversion put Windsor 10-0 up after just six minutes.

There was a glimmer of hope for Abbey when they were awarded a penalty direct from the restart kick. Winger Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen struck his kick at goal well, and he landed Abbey’s first points of the game from 37 metres. Unfortunately, second row Chris Shaw was unable to control Windsor’s next restart, and Abbey were soon under pressure again. But when they retrieved possession, Beckly and centre Arron Ross ran well out of defence, and for a while we saw some excellent ball retention from the visitors. Skipper Will Bevan linked with full back Jack Lambert-Taylor and winger Matt Seabourne, and then Ross, House and hooker Martin Collier drove into the home defence as Abbey made good ground. Bevan and his half back partner Theo Evered moved the ball to the left, and a further phase saw Bevan release second row Treacle Knights inside the home half. Ross continued the attack, but possession was finally conceded when Seabourne was tackled into touch.

Abbey were pushed backwards at the next scrum, and Knights and Shaw did well to stop a run from winger James Cullen. But Windsor regained possession, and after the ball was moved rapidly to the right, Gaylor broke clear and ran up the touchline to score. He added a brilliant conversion to make the score 17-3. Two minutes later Abbey sent on Ollie Charlton in the front row in place of Richard King.
A good kick from Evered took Abbey into the home half, but the Abbey scrum was soon in trouble again and they were pushed off their own ball. Windsor launched another speedy counterattack, and Birch burst out of Seabourne’s tackle to cross for his second try on the left. Gaylor again converted, and Windsor now led 24-3 in the 23rd minute. Three minutes later the home side got the bonus point try when de Marcilla Bahlsen failed to control a kick ahead from Ben Grant-Adamson. Windsor’s scrum half followed up his own kick and sped away to score in the right corner. Gaylor’s missed conversion was his only failure of the afternoon.

That rare offence in modern rugby – foot up at the scrum – saw Abbey awarded a free kick in the Windsor half, and after prop Adam Postlethwaite had collected a pass off his bootlaces, Ross ran the ball into the 22. Bevan and House continued the move, but after further good work from Knights, Evered and Ross a penalty was conceded. Windsor kicked for touch, but House stole the ball at the subsequent lineout. However, Abbey lost the next lineout on their own throw, and before they could react, Balmer burst through the midfield and touched down under the sticks for Windsor’s fifth try. Gaylor’s conversion took the score to 36-3 after 34 minutes.

Soon after this, Abbey were awarded a penalty and an extra ten metres, but after Bevan had taken a quick tap the ball was knocked on. Balmer counterattacked again with a 20 metre run, and after receiving good support from Winter and skipper Aaron McGroarty, Grant-Adamson gave Cullen a clear run to the line. Gaylor again converted from in front of the posts, and Abbey were in danger of being overrun as half time approached.

Beckly made a good burst into the home 22 as the first half neared its conclusion, but Windsor kicked a loose ball down the field and another try resulted. No Abbey defender was able to cover the kick, and Grant-Adamson followed up to touch down wide on the left. Gaylor’s conversion made the half time score 50-3.

To their huge credit, Abbey came out all guns blazing after the interval, and they competed on an equal footing for the entire third quarter. Bevan, House, de Marcilla Bahlsen and Postlethwaite all made ground in the opening minutes of the half, and Lambert-Taylor sent a good kick towards the home 22. Ross, Bevan and Beckly attacked close to the home line, but eventually Evered was held when he made a break and the ball was lost. Beckly performed another saving operation at the next scrum, but after a break from Ross, Shaw was bundled into touch. Another good kick from Lambert-Taylor took Abbey back into the Windsor half, but the visitors lost two lineouts on their own throw to let the home side off the hook. Beckly and Ross attacked again, House and Evered supported well, but when he received once more Beckly was tackled into touch.

At last, Knights won a clean catch for Abbey at a lineout, and after a break from Bevan, Shaw and Ross took play into Windsor’s 22. Here Abbey set up a great attacking platform, with Shaw looking especially dangerous in a series of drives. Centre Charlie Shackleford was stopped just short of the line, and then the Abbey forwards were held up over the line after a great drive. From the resultant five metre scrum, Beckly and Ross attacked towards the left, and after further good work from Charlton, Bevan broke again. He handed on to Evered, and the outside half’s pass to Ross saw Abbey’s centre cross on the left for a well-deserved try. De Marcilla Bahlsen’s conversion attempt from close to touch was an excellent effort, but the ball bounced wide off a post. We were then treated to another rarity in modern rugby as Windsor were penalised for being in front of the kicker at the restart.

An hour of play had now passed, and Abbey replaced House with Ben Finnie. Soon after this the visitors were given a numerical advantage when replacement forward Todd Skevington was yellow-carded. Abbey brought on Dan Norville for Seabourne, and Beckly, Ross and Evered took play back into Windsor’s half. A tap penalty resulted in Bevan breaking into the 22, and Shackleford, Shaw and Lambert-Taylor supported well. A second Windsor replacement, threequarter James Howard, was also binned, and Beckly and flanker Matt Gingell did their best to create a score before possession was lost. There were then further yellow cards for Knights and Cullen after what appeared to be a fairly minor skirmish, and briefly Abbey had 14 players on the field to Windsor’s dozen.

Abbey now made three replacements with House, King and Seabourne coming on for Gingell, Collier and Lambert-Taylor. They were awarded a penalty, and Finnie won the ensuing lineout. Evered, Ross, Seabourne and Norville took play to the right, and Shaw was held in the home 22 after a good drive. Skevington returned for Windsor, but Finnie won another good lineout ball, resulting in an attack involving Evered, Shackleford, Seabourne and Norville.

Normal time was now nearly up, and Abbey looked as if they might actually win the second half 5-0. However, in the dying minutes, Windsor took control again and got two more tries. First Gaylor touched down to the right of the posts after a break from Emmett, his conversion making the score 57-8. Then, after Gingell had returned to the action for the injured Shaw, Emmett himself ended the game with a try under the stacks. Gaylor’s conversion gave him a personal haul of 29 points for the afternoon.

Windsor are a team in peak form, and they thoroughly deserved their victory. As mentioned earlier, centres Birch and Balmer punched holes at will in the Abbey defence, while full back Gaylor looked a class act. That said, full credit must be given to Abbey’s players for the resolve they showed in the second half. They took the game to their opponents, and the anticipated rout did not occur. Lesser sides might even have shipped 100 points, but the likes of Beckly, Ross, Shaw and Bevan led by example, while Evered was always in the thick of the action. This has been a difficult season in many respects for the team, especially in terms of injuries to key players. There is now the opportunity for the squad to regroup and develop over the summer under coach Luke Harding, and there is no reason why the side should not view the 2018-19 season with confidence.

Abbey: J Lambert-Taylor (M Seabourne 74), M Seabourne (D Norville 65), A Ross, C Shackleford, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, T Evered, W Bevan (captain), R King (O Charlton 19), M Collier (R King 74), A Postlethwaite, J Knights, C Shaw (M Gingell 83), M Gingell (E House 74), E House (B Finnie 61), M Beckly

Windsor: J Gaylor, C Reynolds (J Howard 45), P Birch, M Balmer, J Cullen, N Baggett, B Grant-Adamson (C Reynolds 53), R Carne (T Noakes 40), T Bascombe, T Thurgood (R Carne 83), M Stanton, A Monro, A McGroarty (captain), J Winter (T Skevington 39), C Emmett

Abbey:
Try: Ross
Pen: De Marcilla Bahlsen

Windsor:
Tries: Birch (2), Gaylor (2), Grant-Adamson (2), Balmer, Cullen, Emmett
Con: Gaylor (8)
Pen: Gaylor

Yellow cards:
Abbey: Knights
Windsor: Skevington, Howard, Cullen

Referee: A Green (Berkshire)

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Team selection

Lambert-Taylor, Jack Lambert-Taylor, Jack
Seabourne, Matt Seabourne, Matt
Shackleford, Charlie Shackleford, Charlie
Ross, Arron Ross, Arron
Garces de Marcilla, Diego Garces de Marcilla, Diego
Evered, Theo Evered, Theo
Bevan, Will Bevan, Will
Beckly, Michael Beckly, Michael
House, Ed House, Ed
Gingell, Matt Gingell, Matt
Shaw, Chris Shaw, Chris
Knights, Treacle Knights, Treacle
Postlethwaite, Adam Postlethwaite, Adam
Collier, Martin Collier, Martin
Charlton, Ollie Charlton, Ollie

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# 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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