Buckingham 23 Reading Abbey 14
A disappointing second half performance cost Abbey the chance of victory in their Southern Counties North clash at Buckingham, although the game seemed there for the taking after forty minutes.
Buckingham 23 Reading Abbey 14
A disappointing second half performance cost Abbey the chance of victory in their Southern Counties North clash at Buckingham, although the game seemed there for the taking after forty minutes. The visitors overcame a sluggish start and an 11-0 deficit to lead 14-11 at the interval, by which time their hosts had lost three players to injury. Buckingham lost another player after sixty-five minutes and played the final quarter of an hour with fourteen men, but superior ball retention and teamwork gave them a deserved win.
Buckingham were definitely the more lively side in the opening exchanges. They took the lead after just a minute of play when outside half Max Nagy kicked a routine penalty. Abbey No.8 Will Woodward protected possession well at the opening scrum, but the visitors missed the chance to set up a good position when they lost their own lineout ball after a penalty. Buckingham lost their No.8 Euan Prime as early as the eighth minute, though his absence was covered admirably by replacement Phil Wright, who proceeded to have an outstanding game.
Good tackling from winger Remi Norville and second row Chris Shaw halted the next home attack, but Buckingham increased their lead in the twelfth minute with the first try of the afternoon. It came from a clean lineout catch from flanker Pat Ockendon who handed on to prop Matthew Payne. Payne burst through the Abbey cover with a fifteen metre run before passing to scrum half Joe Chalmers, who crossed the line unopposed. Nagy was unable to convert from a fairly simple position.
Buckingham continued to attack, and Abbey were grateful for the cool head and quick thinking of winger Remi Norville, who gathered the ball near his own line and kicked his side out of danger. A high kick from scrum half Will Bevan took Abbey into the home half, but at this point they lost centre Tom Woodward to shoulder injury. Charlie Gingell replaced him and slotted in on the wing, with full back Gavin Dampies moving to the centre and Norville to full back. A further cool catch and kick out of defence from Norville saved another tricky situation near the Abbey line, after which good tackling from Woodward and Dampies halted an attack launched by Wright. Abbey did not help their cause by losing another lineout, and soon after this Nagy kicked a second penalty to put his side 11-0 up.
At this stage of the game, with the half hour mark approaching, Abbey had seen very little of the ball and even less of the Buckingham twenty-two. They finally made it up the field when, after good breaks by Shaw and Woodward, outside half Rob Bryson sent a kick to within fifteen metres of the home line. Buckingham hit back at once with a forty metre maul, before Abbey began easily their best period of the game.
The catalyst for the revival was Woodward, who ran from the back of a scrum into the home twenty-two. Centre Luke Burns and winger Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen carried on the attack, and after Dampies, Gingell and second row Treacle Knights all handled, Woodward was halted on the line. The ball was recycled, and after good work from Burns and prop Ollie Charlton, Bryson handed on to Dampies who cut through to the line in typical style. De Marcilla Bahlsen added a good conversion.
At this point Ockendon and Payne both left the field, and Abbey capitalised by scoring again from the restart. Again, Woodward was the inspiration, catching the ball and running forty metres downfield. Play moved towards the left of the field, where the supporting Dampies sent Shaw over for a great try. Once again De Marcilla Bahlsen added the extras and Abbey were in front. In an ideal world they would have added to the score before the break as Buckingham looked in some disarray at this juncture. A long touch kick from Bryson kept the pressure on and yet another run from Woodward nearly created a third try. Both Bevan and Shaw got close to the line, and then Bryson just failed to hold on to his own chip ahead five metres out. The half ended with Abbey looking the more composed of the two sides.
Abbey looked bright in the opening stages of the second half, with Knights winning good lineout ball and prop Jack Saunders making ground with the ball. Burns kicked his side into the home twenty-two, Knights won another lineout and Woodward and flanker George House both had good runs. But after Abbey conceded a penalty, Nagy sent an excellent kick downfield and Buckingham were back on the attack. A prolonged spell of pressure saw Abbey initially defending very well, with Woodward and flanker Mike Beckly both bringing off important tackles. But even though home winger Daniel Rolfe was temporarily out of action and receiving attention on the field, Buckingham eventually found a way to the line. After Wright came close to scoring, winger Craig Coxon touched down on the left, Nagy converting.
Ed House replaced his brother in the Abbey back row just short of the hour mark, and Dampies, de Marcilla Bahlsen and Saunders tried to mount an attack. House and Bryson took play into the home twenty-two, but a pass from Burns was intercepted, and in the ensuing counterattack Gingell saved a try by stopping full back Nobby Clarke five metres from the line. But Buckingham continued to attack, and after good work from Chalmers and Rolfe, Wright went over for a deserved score. Nagy was wide with the conversion attempt this time.
Shortly after this, Clarke left the field injured, giving Abbey an extra man advantage for the remainder of the game. Fungai Mutepfa replaced hooker Adam Postlethwaite, but the latter was soon back on the field when Bryson was hurt. This change resulted in Charlton moving to the wing, de Marcilla Bahlsen to scrum half and Bevan to number ten. Abbey had a let off when Nagy was wide with a penalty attempt, and shortly after this de Marcilla Bahlsen missed with a relatively straightforward kick which would have put his side in losing bonus point territory.
Time was against Abbey now. Beckly and Shaw tried to work the ball into the home twenty-two, but Buckingham’s defence was too strong for them. Gingell and Norville ran the ball from their own line, but again the attack came to nothing. De Marcilla Bahlsen then saw a long-range penalty attempt fall just short of the target in what proved to be Abbey’s last chance of further points. Just before the final whistle ended a disappointing afternoon for the visitors, Shaw had to leave the field injured, George House returning in his place.
Full credit should be given to Buckingham for refusing to let their game plan or their attitude be affected by the loss of so many players. That said, Abbey know that they can play better than this. Apart from a purple patch in the second quarter, they underperformed for much of the game. The lineout was not always secure and they did not retain the ball for long enough periods. Woodward and Norville had impressive games, but Abbey will be looking for a better team effort when Drifters visit Rosehill next weekend.
Abbey: G Dampies, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, L Burns, T Woodward (C Gingell 16), R Norville, R Bryson (A Postlethwaite 69), W Bevan (captain), O Charlton, A Postlethwaite (F Mutepfa 66), J Saunders, J Knights, C Shaw (G House 87), G House (E House 58), M Beckly, W Woodward
Buckingham: N Clarke, D Rolfe, M Hawker, J Lee, C Coxon, M Nagy, J Chalmers, M Payne (J Kayll 36), S Williams, S Tomkinson, J Barker, J Temple (captain), W Cooper, P Ockendon (M Glendinning 36), E Prime (P Wright 8)
Tries: Dampies, Shaw
Con: De Marcilla Bahlsen (2)
Tries: Chalmers, Coxon, Wright
Pen: Nagy (2)
Referee: L Morlet (Buckinghamshire)