Abbey snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
Abbey's lack of a kicker ultimately cost them in a game where they dominated an ill-disciplined Wallingford side who played for 30 minutes with 14 men.
Wallingford travelled to nearby rivals Reading Abbey on a genuinely warm Spring day, looking to bounce back from the previous week's loss to Windsor.
In selection. Wallingford welcomed back Carl Tappin and Nathan Chapman into the pack, whilst in the backs, Pete McKinley came in on the wing.
The first half was mostly a tale of Wallingford indiscipline, the Abbey full back running the ball back dangerously on numerous occasions, and Abbey's inability to convert near constant pressure on the visitors.
With Abbey's forwards' tackling much improved from the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Wallingford's big runners were contained in the early exchanges, as Wallingford began to infringe nearly every other minute. Unnecessary back foot penalties were the most common, with a few breakdown offences thrown in there too, as Abbey enjoyed near total possession in the opening half hour, but their faultering line-out cost them good field position on several occasions. And on top of that, they missed two very kickable penalties that would have given them a deserved lead.
They eventually did convert a penalty to take the lead, but they promptly lost the lead, as Wallingford, with one of their few spells of possession in the Abbey half, scored in the corner from a well-taken finish from Dan Sadler after good work from McKinley. Importantly, Phil Dawes' touchline conversion went over.
With the penalty count mounting, Wallingford lost Max Suttner to the bin, followed by Conner Murphy for team offences, but Abbey failed to break the resolute Wallingford defence before half time.
Abbey started the second half the same as the first, as they moved the ball quickly, stretching the Wallingford defence, and this eventually led to a try, as they squeezed in in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed.
Against the run of play again, Wallingford then scored a long distance try, as Sam Botting, fed by another impressive run from McKinley, threw a dummy on half way before fending off the cover defence to score a superb individual try. Dawes again converted well from wide out, as Wallingford took a 6 point lead with twenty minutes to go.
A third sin-bin, this time for Chapman, saw Wallingford's brief purple patch come to an end as Abbey came back strongly. After sustained attacks, their ageing centre crashed through some tiring Wallingford defence to dot down ten yards to the right of the posts. A difference kicker, but the same result, as the ball drifted just wide.
Another penalty soon came, but this time their winger sliced the very kickable penalty wide, as the Abbey support began to get that sinking feeling.
Determined defence, with the likes of Jeffreys, Sadler and McKinley to the fore, Wallingford eventually saw out the game as Wallingford clinched a wholly undeserved victory.
This was probably the worst display of the season from Wallingford. Whether you agree or not with the referee's interpretation of the laws, you need to adapt your game accordingly and Wallingford seemed incapable of doing that.
That said, with the amount of possession Abbey enjoyed, the 30 minutes with 14 men and the 3:1 penalty ratio against them, Wallingford's defence, especially scramble defence, was excellent, which is one positive to take from the game.
Individually, Pete McKinley was the stand out player - fast and powerful in attack, strong in defence and all over Instagram after the game, whilst Jeffreys and Botting were influential in defence as usual.
And Phil's kicking was okay.
Aylesbury next week for the perennial end of season fixture, and a much improved and more intelligent display will be needed to end the season on a high.