Gosford All Blacks 10 Abbey 33
By Mark Hoskins
A superb tactical performance from Abbey gave them a thoroughly deserved victory over Gosford All Blacks at Stratfield Brake Sportsground.
Gosford All Blacks 10 Reading Abbey 33
A superb tactical performance from Abbey gave them a thoroughly deserved victory over Gosford All Blacks at Stratfield Brake Sportsground. The visitors made brilliant use of a strong wind in the first half and led 28-5 at half time with a four try bonus point already in the bag. In a more even second half Abbey defended well when required and never looked like losing the match.
The wind was blowing straight down the pitch at kick-off time, and Abbey had it behind them in the first half. They made a dream start to the game, taking the lead inside the first two minutes when outside half Luke Burns chipped the ball over the defence five metres from the home line. The ball bounced perfectly for full back Gavin Dampies, and despite the close proximity of his opposite number Ben Bodinham he crossed the line unopposed and touched down under the posts. Winger Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen converted to give Abbey the perfect start.
Gosford attacked from the restart, and outside half Tim Ellis made a dangerous break of thirty metres, but the ball was knocked on when he passed. Abbey won a penalty at the opening scrum of the game, and skipper Will Bevan produced the first of a series of brilliant touch kicks to send Abbey back into the home half. Hooker Mark Toland wisely threw to the front of the lineout - any other throw was a risk with such a strong wind – and second row Treacle Knights won the ball comfortably. However, Burns had his kick ahead charged down and Gosford were able to attack again. This time they stayed in the Abbey twenty-two, and they scored their first points of the afternoon in the seventh minute when flanker Dan Hughes chased a kick to the right corner and just managed to get to the ball first. Ellis could not convert from close to the touchline.
Second row Chris Shaw won the next lineout for Abbey, and after a good drive from prop Richard King Gosford conceded a penalty. Bevan kicked Abbey into the home twenty-two, and after Shaw had won the lineout, No.8 Will Woodward and Knights both drove forward before Gosford were again penalised. Bevan kicked for the corner, Knights won the lineout, and Abbey’s drive for the line was only just halted. Yet again the home side conceded a penalty, and this time Abbey chose to take a scrum. From it, Woodward made five metres to the right, and the ball then travelled via centre Jack Lambert-Taylor and Dampies to Remi Norville. The winger touched down in the right corner, and de Marcilla Bahlsen landed a superb conversion from the touchline.
An excellent high kick from Burns soon put Gosford under pressure again, and a third Abbey try was scored soon afterwards. Knights stole the ball at a home lineout, Woodward made ten metres, and then centre Ben Mitchell went on a brilliant diagonal run towards the left corner. He found Toland in support, and the hooker crashed over for a brilliant try. Having defied the conditions with a successful conversion from the right touchline, de Marcilla Bahlsen did exactly the same from wide on the left. His fantastic kick gave Abbey a 21-5 lead after twenty-one minutes.
Abbey continued to dominate territory and possession during the second quarter of the game. Flankers George and Ed House both had good runs, and another excellent break from Mitchell nearly led to a score. Then, after half an hour of play, Knights won another ball at the front of a lineout and Woodward led the charge into the home half. The ball went via Shaw to Mitchell, and after another clever thirty metre run he sent Dampies in under the posts for the bonus point try. De Marcilla Bahlsen again converted.
Abbey’s front row of King, Toland and Adam Postlethwaite were more than holding their own in the scrums, and this gave Woodward plenty of opportunities to make ground from the set piece. Yet another run from Mitchell set up a good position, but Abbey lost the ball. A brief home attack followed, but Knights again tidied up at the front of the lineout and Burns kicked Abbey clear of danger. A fifth try should have been scored just before the break, but Mitchell was harshly adjudged to have knocked the ball on when his clever tap put Dampies in the clear. The half time whistle sounded with Abbey well in control of the game.
If anything, the wind got even stronger after the break, but it did not stop Abbey running the ball and putting Gosford under pressure. Mitchell made ten metres from a tap penalty, and then Lambert-Taylor made a brilliant twenty metre break. A good counterattack from hooker Liam Donnelly nearly put home winger James Groves in the clear, but Abbey forced him into touch. As the sky darkened, Abbey found themselves defending at a lineout in their own twenty-two, but again Knights won possession, and a fantastic forty metre run from Woodward put Abbey on the front foot again.
King was replaced by Fungai Mutepfa after fifty-six minutes, but soon afterwards Abbey were temporarily reduced to fourteen men when Knights was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away after a penalty was awarded. The visitors were under pressure for the next few minutes as Gosford played probably their best rugby of the game. This culminated in a try for the impressive Bodinham after sixty-two minutes. He ran in from twenty metres out for a good score, but Ellis was unable to convert in the blustery conditions.
Soon after this Dampies went on a characteristic dodging run, but his pass at the end to Norville was slightly forward. Just after this Hughes was binned for a high tackle on Burns and Charlie Gingell replaced Dampies, who was suffering from cramp. Mitchell and Lambert-Taylor combined well as Abbey launched another attack, and soon after Knights returned to the action the visitors made the game absolutely safe with another good try. Woodward, so often the catalyst for Abbey’s attacks, passed to Bevan inside his own half, and the scrum half accelerated superbly in the thrilling run to the line. Ellis pursued him all the way, but Bevan held him off to cross wide on the right for a fantastic individual score. De Marcilla Bahlsen was unable to convert, but with just six minutes of normal time remaining the game was won.
Gosford attacked well in the closing stages, with Bodinham coming close to getting another try, but the final action saw Abbey once again on the offensive, with Ed House, Woodward and Mutepfa all running well. Norville nearly got a sixth try when he kicked ahead, but he just failed to beat home scrum half Joe Ballinger to the ball as it crossed the line. With third replacement Charlie Shackleford suffering from hamstring trouble, Abbey were forced to play the final two minutes with fourteen men when Dampies again left the field, but they retained possession well and were in control when the final whistle sounded.
There were so many facets of Abbey’s play to admire in this victory. Chief amongst these was the excellent use of a strong and blustery wind. Bevan and Burns both kicked well and the sensible use of Knights at the front of the lineout won them plenty of ball. Woodward stamped his class on the game with a series of storming runs, Mitchell frequently split the home defence with some great attacking bursts, and de Marcilla Bahlsen’s goalkicking was brilliant. Abbey will hope to continue in this vein when High Wycombe visit Rosehill next Saturday.
Abbey: G Dampies (C Gingell 65), R Norville, B Mitchell, J Lambert-Taylor, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, L Burns (G Dampies 77), W Bevan (captain), A Postlethwaite, M Toland, R King (F Mutepfa 56), J Knights, C Shaw, E House, G House, W Woodward. Not used: C Shackleford
Gosford All Blacks: B Bodinham, S Malton, M Johnson, A Schwartz (D Sherbourne 64), J Groves, T Ellis, J Ballinger, S Fouracre, L Donnelly, C Lloyd (M Selvey 56), D Bullimore (Z Latcham-Ford 59) , R Tyler, C Bennett, D Hughes, R Gratwohl
Tries: Dampies (2), Norville, Toland, Bevan
Con: De Marcilla Bahlsen (4)
Gosford All Blacks:
Tries: Hughes, Bodinham
Gosford All Blacks: Hughes
Referee: R Owens (Staffordshire)