Resilient Abbey fight to end
Never say die attitude
Report by Hollie -
Abbey’s second team, keep their chin’s up in the face of defeat in difficult snowy conditions, never giving up until the final whistle blew as they miss out to Amersham and Chiltern away.
Ross Jaffray, Josh Beale and Jared Sherburd were welcomed into a much changed squad, and gave excellent accounts of themselves.
As early as the 3rd minute Abbey put the first points on the board. A penalty inside Amersham’s 10 metre line was struck brilliantly between the uprights by Theo Evered, whose kicking game was impeccable both from the tee and out of hand. Abbey lead 3-0, which was unfortunately the first and last time they would lead in the game.
The resultant kick off from Amersham was excellently claimed by Max Courtenage, who carried well into the guts of the oncoming defence. Abbey were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown and a quick tap penalty caught Abbey napping, with the Amersham wing eventually sneaking through after a 2 on 1 on the blindside, and crossing the whitewash. Try converted to make the score 7-3 to the home side.
Amersham claimed the following kick off and opted to kick for touch. The Abbey line out is well won, a theme which would continue throughout the game, both Tom Clark and Josh Beale having the beating of their men every time. Louis Pawlett gathered the ball well and sought to release his backs, unfortunately the conditions lead to a break down in play and a resultant Amersham scrum. The ball was hooked against the head by Abbey’s captain Mark Toland, however the referee adjudged the ball to have left through the channel. Amersham secure their own ball on the second attempt, however this would be the one and only scrum they would win on their own put in, with Toland claiming the ball against the head for the rest of the afternoon. Amersham’s dangerous fly half and openside exchange passes and it takes some resolute defending from Adam Penney and Greg Wills to prevent the Abbey line being broken. Amersham attempt to clear their lines and kick the ball into touch. From the resulting line out the ball is again quickly shipped by Louis Pawlett to the backs. Good Abbey phase play, encompassing strong carries from Matt Eldridge, Adam Poselthwaite, Ollie Charlton and Beale, provided an excellent platform for Evered to marshal his backs. Clever Abbey interplay culminated in a clever cross-field kick from Evered, creating a try opportunity that was narrowly missed as the ball agonisingly just beat winger Jim Bourne, and into the dead ball area.
The match entered into a messy phase of mistakes by both sides, with the snow picking up again and doing neither side any favours, scrums and penalties were interchanged between teams, with neither being able to gain any real advantage. An Abbey kick over the top was caught by the Amersham centre, who ran hard through the Abbey line and looked odds on to carry through to a try, but was halted by a brave double hit from Jaffray and full back Chrissy Munce and bundled into touch.
More scrappy possession exchanges from both teams saw the Amersham 8 pick and go from a ruck and penetrate the Abbey line, Matt Eldridge being the once to end the run with a perfect tackle. Quick support from Amersham meant the ball stayed in their possession passed swiftly along the line. Just as Amersham are looking dangerous in attack once more Abbey winger Ross makes a telling tackle, with Toland adding the extras to take the Amersham wing into touch and Abbey set for a line out 5m from their own try line. Abbey win the line out but Amersham are quick to react and defend well at the resultant maul. An Abbey infringement sees Amersham awarded a penalty and their 10 sends the ball through the posts to extend their lead to 10-3.
Amersham claim the kick off and opt for touch. The line out is well claimed by Tom Clark and efficiently passed out down the line. An excellent and aggressive line by Daniels saw the ball run hard and fast line over the gain line, however the conditions were telling once again and the ball was lost forward. Abbey claimed the scrum against the head, however conspired to somehow lose the ball in the resultant ruck. The Amersham 8, who was highlighted as a danger from the first minute of the game, picked the ball and ran on his own again, weaves past the Abbey defence to dot the ball down under the posts.
Amersham, after several attempts at running the restart back, attempt to kick for touch. This time they were unsuccessful, finding only Munce, who weaved and jinked through several tackles, making excellent yards. Powerful rucking from the Abbey forwards sees the ball given to Daniels, again hitting a ferocious line at pace. Abbey were now beginning to build phase play and territory, but still mistakes were dogging their game. Abbey were penalised for not releasing and Amersham found touch 1m from the Abbey line. Amersham maintain possession from their own line out and the resolute Abbey defence by Penney, Pawlett, Courtenage and Poselthwaite kept Amersham at bay. Phase after phase was repelled until Amersham finally crossed the line, only to be held up by the courageous and determined Beale. The resultant Amersham scrum was again won by Toland against the head. Abbey chose to pick and go from the scrum, but hand over possession too easily by being stripped in a maul. The Amersham forwards, having reclaimed possession 3 metres out from the Abbey try line, were unable to muscle their way over the line, instead opting to sneak down the blindside and over the whitewash.
Still Abbey’s heads did not drop. Amersham again attempted to run the ball back from the kick off and again Abbey’s defence halted them in the midfield. Abbey’s efforts were rewarded with a penalty, which Evered faithfully stroked into touch 5 metres from the Amersham Line. A short Abbey line out was adjudged not to have gone 5 metres, however Abbey were awarded a free kick for Amersham’s early jump. The play was spread to the left wing, before being brought back to Evered, who sold a huge dummy, before diving under the posts. He added his own extras and the half time whistle sounded with Abbey trailing 22-10.
Half time sees changes made to the Abbey side, Adam Postlethwaite earning a break after a solid first half being replaced by Mikey Cowdery, and Max Courtenage suffering with the conditions was replaced by Jared Sherburd. Ross Jaffray moved to his favoured position back row, and throughout the second half showed why he belonged there.
The half time huddle had Abbey players confident that they had the winning of this game, however it was Amersham who came out of the blocks firing. Their offensive style and impressive line breaks saw them cross the line within 10 minutes of the second half commencing. Toland left the field for a head assessment following a knock in the try build up, with Poselthwaite returning to the fray and Charlton moving to hooker. More sustained pressure by Amersham is repelled by Abbey and some stout tackling by Jaffray and Beale see Abbey rewarded with a scrum on their own 5 metre line. Unfortunately, the scrum is lost against the head and Amersham’s pack, which had been under the cosh for the entire game, take Abbey by surprise and push over for a try.
And still Abbey’s heads did not drop. It must be said of a team who have not had much time together, and who were struggling with the wintery conditions, they admirably maintained their intensity throughout the entire 80 minutes.
More interplay saw an Amersham lineout stolen by Clark which was scooped up by Abbey and ferociously scrapped over the gainline. Pawlett again expertly found Evered with a precision pass under immense pressure from the Amersham counter ruckers, but unfortunately the ball was dropped in the backs and the ball was hacked forward by Amersham. The resultant chase saw Jared pick the ball up well and wisely stay on his feet in contact until back up arrived. A passing interchange between Munce and Jaffray saw an Amersham forward yellow carded for a high tackle. Charlton’s nose was injured and Poselthwaite returned to the field. Abbey chose to tap and go with the resultant penalty and Penney ran a bulldozing line into the Amersham defence. A further penalty was awarded with Abbey choosing this time to kick for touch. Josh Beale excellently claimed the line out and the play was spread wide. Amersham over chased the quick Abbey play and Pawlett, showing off his rugby brain to expose Amersham’s mistake, quickly rewound play to Eldridge, who attempted to find a pass outside him, only for the ball to be knocked forward by an Amersham player, cynically in the referee’s eyes. He went to spend 10 minutes with his team mate, and Abbey again chose to tap and go from the penalty, in an attempt to expose the 2 men overlap they now had. Abbey ran the ball well to Amersham’s 5 metre line, where the ball was unfortunately lost in contact. Amersham attempted to run the ball from their own try line but were stopped by an excellent tackle from Wills and Evered. Toland stole the ball from the ruck and found Beale, who sold a clever dummy to find Bourne on the wing. However, Bourne was unable to cleanly collect the pass on the try line and was stripped by the Amersham winger. Amersham launched another attack from their own 5 metre and made some excellent yards into Abbey’s territory. Determined defending from Clark and Pawlett halted the attack for long enough to allow Abbey’s players to return to defensive positions. Abbey were now defending with all their might and powerful hits from the Irish contingents Munce and Toland managed to disrupt play. However, Amersham maintained possession and, giving a glimpse of why they are second in the league, picked devastating lines and excellent passing play to touch down for a final try in the corner. Josh Beale suffered an injury in the build up through his selfless and committed tackling and was replaced by Courtenage, who had managed to warm up and overcome the conditions.
The match, having been played in excellent spirits on both sides, began to turn scrappy, with the referee making several halts to play to have discussions with respective captains. Abbey, to their credit, were determined to have the final say in this match and for the closing minutes were head and shoulders above a tiring Amersham team. Their efforts were rewarded when Courtenage stole Amersham ball and ran in a try for some 30 metres.
Positivity and constructive leadership from several senior players gave the team the grit to fight to the bitter end in baltic conditions and although the game didn’t go their way this is a team on the up. There was no man of the match vote due to attempts to quickly return to Abbey for the England game, however Jaffray, Evered and Beale must have been strong contenders for the award.