Reading 46 Abbey 10
By Mark Hoskins
Current form and league position might have suggested that Abbey would be favourites to win the Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North local derby at Holme Park, but they were soundly beaten by a highly-motivated and well-drilled Reading team.
Reading 46 Reading Abbey 10
Current form and league position might have suggested that Abbey would be favourites to win the Wadworth 6X Southern Counties North local derby at Holme Park, but they were soundly beaten by a highly-motivated and well-drilled Reading team. The home side was always in control, scoring seven tries and dominating territory for long periods. In contrast, an Abbey team lacking several key players looked out of sorts for much of the game and rarely featured in attack.
It took Reading all of two minutes to take the lead. Abbey lost their first lineout throw, and centre Alex Murray-Smith, a constant thorn in the visitors’ side, burst through the defence and veered towards the left. He found support from winger Chris Greig-Jenkins who touched down close to the posts. Scrum half Nick Portch added the straightforward conversion to give his a dream start.
Two Reading knock-ons in the next few minutes handed possession to Abbey. Skipper Will Bevan and his half back partner Jack Lambert-Taylor both sent testing high kicks into the home half, and the next Abbey lineout was comfortably won by second row Chris Shaw. But the visitors suffered a blow in the ninth minute when Bevan was injured and had to leave the field. In his place, Jules Greenaway came on to play on the wing, with Diego de Marcilla Bahlsen moving to scrum half.
Reading were soon attacking again, and after winning a lineout their forwards drove impressively towards the Abbey line. Then Abbey conceded a penalty under their own posts and Portch put his side 10-0 in front with a simple kick. In fifteen minutes of play Abbey had barely seen any possession, and they were confined almost entirely to their own half. The home side again looked dangerous when they were awarded a scrum, near the Abbey line, but flanker George House relieved the situation by diving on a loose ball and Lambert-Taylor kicked clear. Then full back Remi Norville made fifteen metres with the ball, taking Abbey as far as the halfway line. Shaw won another lineout, but when Reading regained possession Murray-Smith broke clear again and Greig-Jenkins crossed the line, only to be called back for a forward pass.
Two minutes later Murray-Smith made yet another break, but good tackling by Abbey snuffed out the attack and Lambert-Taylor kicked for touch. No.8 Mike Beckly made a promising run, receiving good support from de Marcilla Bahlsen and flanker Ed House. Possession was again lost, but Reading outside half Dan Witko misdirected a crosskick which almost found Abbey centre Gavin Dampies. Dampies had few chances to show his paces during the afternoon, but had the bounce of the ball favoured him on this occasion he would have been unstoppable.
As the game neared the half hour mark, play was still almost exclusively in the Abbey half. A good tackle from winger Charlie Gingell halted a Greig-Jenkins break, and Shaw did well to stop a sniping run from Portch. Fungai Mutepfa replaced prop Richard King in the Abbey front row. He initially featured at hooker in the scrums, but he soon moved to prop, and when he did so the scrum became steadier. A scrappy phase of play followed with neither side able to retain possession for long. Beckly made a good break from the base of a scrum, but Abbey lost their next lineout, despite the ball being thrown to the front of the line.
Just before the end of the first half, Reading were awarded another penalty, but although the kick was a relatively simple one, Portch missed it. It did not matter however, because his side scored a try soon afterwards. Abbey lost the ball on the halfway line, and after Greig-Jenkins got away from Gingell on the left wing, he gave full back Jos Clarke a scoring pass. Portch could not convert from a difficult angle.
Another scrum break from Beckly set Ben Mitchell up for the first in a series of promising runs by Abbey’s centre, but half time arrived soon afterwards with the visitors 15-0 down. At no time in the first half had they created any sustained pressure in Reading territory.
There was a brighter start to the second half for Abbey. Shaw fed Mitchell, who made ground with a good kick, and then Beckly, Ed House and prop Ollie Charlton all handled well. The visitors were awarded a penalty just inside the Reading half, and de Marcilla Bahlsen kicked a superb goal to give his side some hope. But Reading were soon on the offensive again, with Shaw doing well to halt winger James Mitchell. Portch attempted a long-range penalty in the 47th minute, but his effort dropped well wide of the posts. Shortly after this, Abbey lost Gingell to injury, with his brother Matt coming on in his place.
A good kick from Lambert-Taylor sent Abbey into the Reading half, and after a run from hooker Adam Postlethwaite, Mitchell broke clear. He received support from second row Treacle Knights, but good Reading tackling halted Abbey’s progress. King returned to the field in place of Mutepfa, and de Marcilla Bahlsen had the chance to put more points on the board when Abbey were awarded a penalty in the home twenty-two. Unfortunately, his kick dropped just wide, but Abbey shone momentarily when Norville sent Mitchell on another good run.
Unfortunately, any hopes of a revival were snuffed out when Abbey lost a scrum in their own twenty-two. Greig-Jenkins broke towards the left, and after a smart bout of passing, flanker Taylor McRoberts burst over to score near the posts. Portch’s conversion took the score to 22-3. Five minutes later the game was put beyond Abbey’s reach when flanker Frazer Koefman was driven over from a lineout. Portch could not convert, but Reading had their bonus point with some fifteen minutes left.
To their credit, Abbey made every effort to up the tempo after this. Mitchell featured twice in a good build-up which also involved good work from de Marcilla Bahlsen and Beckly. Eventually the visitors got in a position where they could drive for the line, and Shaw plunged over for a try which de Marcilla Bahlsen did well to convert from wide on the right.
De Marcilla Bahlsen and Mitchell both worked hard as Abbey continued to attack. Mitchell made thirty metres with a great run, and Knights, Greenaway, Norville and Ed House all saw the ball before Mitchell again made ground. Dampies and Greenaway then took play into the home twenty-two, but Abbey lost possession again, and they conceded a try soon afterwards when a kick-ahead from Reading bounced awkwardly. Nobody on the visiting side could collect the ball, and after Koefman had broken clear, replacement prop Steve King charged ten metres to score under the posts. Portch converted to make the score 34-10.
De Marcilla Bahlsen made a brave catch when Reading sent up a threatening high ball. Postlethwaite made good ground with a run, but Abbey were penalised, and for the second time in the match they conceded an extra ten metres for backchat. Then, in the dying minutes of the game, Reading scored two more tries in quick succession. First, replacement hooker Alex Watson made a brilliant break from the halfway line, leading to a try for replacement winger Ben Mitchell. Then, with time almost up, McRoberts and Greig-Jenkins set up a score for Alex Dorliac. It was the veteran centre’s 100th first team try. Portch’s successful conversion ended an afternoon of almost total dominance for Reading.
This was a game Abbey will want to forget very quickly. They started badly, rarely got going in the first half, lost too many set piece balls and only really looked threatening in attack when the game was lost. The early loss of Bevan did not help, though de Marcilla Bahlsen filled in well at number nine. Mitchell was comfortably the most incisive of the Abbey backs, while Shaw and Beckly worked hard in the pack. Reading’s pack worked well as a unit, frequently claiming good ruck ball, while both Murray-Smith and Greig-Jenkins ran effectively. Abbey were perhaps unfortunate to be on the wrong end of what was easily Reading’s best performance of the season so far, but they know they can do better than this. They will certainly need to improve considerably when second-placed Beaconsfield visit Rosehill next weekend.
Abbey: R Norville, C Gingell (M Gingell 51), G Dampies, B Mitchell, D de Marcilla Bahlsen, J Lambert-Taylor, W Bevan (captain, J Greenaway 9), O Charlton, A Postlethwaite, R King (F Mutepfa 30- 53), J Knights, C Shaw, E House, G House, M Beckly
Reading: J Clarke (J Mitchell 71), J Mitchell (B Mitchell 56), A Dorliac, A Murray-Smith, C Greig-Jenkins, D Witko, N Portch, J Pallet (S King 70), B Woodworth (A Watson 53), J Nicol, R Cunningham (captain), R Smith, F Koefman, T McRoberts, A Veale
Con: De Marcilla Bahlsen
Pen: De Marcilla Bahlsen
Tries: Greig-Jenkins, Clarke, McRoberts, Koefman, King, Mitchell, Dorliac
Con: Portch (4)
Referee: A Evans (East Midlands)