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1st XV - Match centre

Reading Abbey
Sat 6 Oct 15:00 - South West Division - Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North Full time

Abbey 5 Windsor 24

A spirited second half performance did much to restore Abbey’s pride and confidence after they had trailed 24-0 to a strong Windsor side at the break.

Abbey 5 Windsor 24

Mark Hoskins
A spirited second half performance did much to restore Abbey’s pride and confidence after they had trailed 24-0 to a strong Windsor side at the break. The visitors failed to add to their score in the second period, missing out on a bonus point in the process, and Abbey’s pack battled bravely in the swirling wind and persistent rain at Rosehill.

The elements marginally favoured Windsor in the first half, although the wind was hard to judge for both sides. No.8 James Wisener caught the kick off for Abbey, and the home pack competed well in the early stages. Scrum half John Malivore drove Windsor back into their own half with a clearance kick, and although the home side was squeezed at the first scrum, it was Abbey who mounted the first meaningful attack. Outside half Theo Evered linked well with Jules Greenaway, and the full back burst into space inside the Windsor 22. Second row Chris Shaw got to within five metres of the line, and when Windsor were penalised Abbey opted to take a scrum. They won possession from this, but winger Matt Fearn was forced into touch in the right corner.

Abbey looked less confident at the early lineouts, although second row Maurice O’Connell did well to rescue one throw after Windsor had initially stolen the ball. Then, after Abbey had kicked into the visitors’ half, Windsor winger James Cullen ran well up the touchline. However, flankers Ed House and Jack Brown defended well, and after 15 minutes of play the game was very even.

Unfortunately for Abbey, the next few minutes proved to be decisive, as Windsor upped a gear and claimed two tries in rapid succession. The visitors’ backs began to click, with centres Neil Baggett and Michael Curtis both making good ground. Then winger Luke Budd received the ball wide on the right, and nobody could touch him as he sped in from 35 metres and touched down under the posts. Full back Jack Gaylor added the simple conversion, and three minutes later he was lining up a second kick. A good run from Greenaway had seemingly set up a promising position for Abbey, but possession was lost and a speculative kick from Windsor resulted in a race to the home line. This was won by scrum half Ben Grant-Adamson, who touched down on the left. Gaylor’s conversion was superbly struck, and Windsor had a very useful 14-0 lead.

Another good run from Greenaway received support from Evered and House, and Abbey’s lineout improved when the ball was thrown to Shaw at the front. The home side were thrown a lifeline when Evered intercepted Cullen’s pass just outside the Windsor 22, but he was tackled well short of the line. His pass to the supporting Fearn was not collected, though it appeared that the winger might have been tackled without the ball. Abbey then made two changes in rapid succession, with Ollie Charlton replacing prop Russ Orrburns and Matt Simmons coming on for Wisener.

Windsor struck again just after the half hour mark, and again it was thanks to a speculative kick ahead. This time Gaylor was first to the ball, and he crossed for a try to the right of the posts which he converted with ease. Abbey responded well, with centre Dan Love running well before he was upended in a tackle. Love again impressed soon afterwards with a dodging run after a good pick-up, and after Windsor were penalised, Malivore took a quick tap to House. O’Connell, Charlton and hooker Adam Postlethwaite supported well, but after this some poor handling ruined a promising build-up. Windsor regained possession, and Abbey prop Edd Woodger did well to stop No.8 Chris Emmett. With five minutes of injury time played at the end of the half, Windsor were awarded a penalty and Gaylor made the half time score 24-0.

Abbey left the field at the break – a good idea in the circumstances – and coach Luke Harding’s half time advice clearly made a difference. The home side returned rejuvenated, and with Orrburns back on in place of Woodger, the pack enjoyed a spell of dominance. Clever kicks by Greenaway and skipper Will Bevan pinned Windsor back in their own 22, and Orrburns, O’Connell. Malivore and House all made ground with the ball. When Windsor rescued possession and kicked up to the halfway line, a skirmish ensued on the touchline, and as a result of this Cullen was shown a yellow card.

Evered and winger Alex Langford-Pollard counterattacked well for Abbey, and after nine minutes of the half Max Courtnage replaced Brown in the back row. A minute later Malivore departed with an injury, forcing a reshuffle. Wisener returned to the field, Simmons moved into the centre and Bevan came in from midfield to his more familiar position of scrum half. Abbey attacked again, with O’Connell, Greenaway and House heavily involved, and Windsor fond themselves defending a lineout seven metres from their own line. The ball was tapped down loosely, but a tremendous piece of work on the ground by Shaw saw Abbey regain possession. The pack drove towards the line, and Courtnage plunged over with a couple of defenders clinging to him to claim a try. Evered’s conversion attempt kept low and just missed the target.

The sin bin period finished, but Abbey, thanks to some good kicks from Bevan, kept Windsor on the back foot. O’Connell and Greenaway again featured strongly, and Bevan himself made good ground with the ball. Woodger returned in place of Charlton, and Langford-Pollard and Bevan both made further breaks. Then, with time running out, Windsor made a huge effort to get the bonus point try which had seemed a formality at half time. They pounded away at the home line, but Abbey defended well and forced the visitors to concede a penalty. With injury time being played, Charlton came on in place of Wisener, but after one more play, and with the game still in the Abbey 22, the final whistle sounded.

Windsor are a good side with an impressive set of backs and a competitive pack. In view of this, Abbey’s players should derive much satisfaction from managing to win the second half while preventing the visitors from scoring. The foul conditions were without doubt a great leveller, but Abbey used the elements far better in the second half, and in retrospect they will regret not defending better in the aftermath of the first Windsor try. It was encouraging to see less experienced players such as Courtnage fitting so well into the side, while Bevan, Greenaway and O’Connell all excelled in the difficult conditions. There is no disgrace in losing to a side of Windsor’s quality, and Abbey can approach their next game at Slough in a confident mood.

Abbey: J Greenaway, M Fearn, W Bevan (captain), D Love, A Langford-Pollard, T Evered, J Malivore (J Wisener 50), R Orrburns (O Charlton 28, E Woodger 72), A Postlethwaite, E Woodger (R Orrburns 40), M O’Connell, C Shaw, J Brown (M Courtnage 49), E House, J Wisener (M Simmons 30, O Charlton 82)

Windsor: J Gaylor, L Budd, N Baggett, M Curtis, J Cullen (J Morris 61), O Cross, B Grant-Adamson, R O’Connor, A Crawshaw (J Winter 58, A Williams 75), R Carne, C Lower, T Skivington, A McGroaty (captain), J Winter (M Stanton 43), C Emmett

Try: Courtnage

Tries: Budd, Grant-Adamson, Gaylor
Con: Gaylor (3)
Pen: Gaylor

Yellow card:
Windsor: Cullen

Referee: D Sabato (Hertfordshire)

Quilter Kids First Champions winner – November: Hinckley RFC

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# Team Pl Pts
6. Stow-on-the-Wold 10 28
7. Marlow 9 27
8. High Wycombe 9 22
9. Reading Abbey 10 21
10. Reading 10 17
11. Slough 10 14
12. Littlemore 10 0

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