Thatcham 41 Reading Abbey 27
Thatcham finish with a flourish
Thatcham finish with a flourish
Both sides brought quality to what proved an entertaining afternoon’s rugby, but unlike the earlier meeting in December Thatcham not only held on to their lead but took the game away from the visitors in the final quarter to deny Abbey a bonus point. Ultimately, the home side was good value for the win with a three tries to nil half time advantage and six tries to three at the final whistle.
With Sam Smith returning from injury in the centre, Derek Allan moved to Joe Leadley’s normal fly half position, with Leadley going to full back. The two have different styles, but it seemed to work pretty well as Thatcham saw plenty of movement of the ball and Leadley looked secure at the back and a handful for Abbey coming forward. Marty Butler had another stormer at 13 and was quickly identified as a danger man by the visitors. But the Thatcham pack proved the overriding advantage, dominant for the most part in the set pieces, so it was no surprise that skipper Mark Smith at no 8 bagged a brace of tries, and this week’s Newbury Building Society man of the match was flanker Tim Apperley, whose power and control played and influential part in Thatcham’s victory.
Thatcham started with a bang, pushing Abbey off the first scrum and moving the ball sharply out to Sean Richardson on the wing to touch down after three minutes, but Leadley’s conversion attempt was pushed just wide. Abbey came back into the game and enjoyed a good spell of possession and territorial advantage in spite of losing Knights to a yellow after ten minutes. Abbey had come close but were held up over the line. Thatcham’s defence was made to work hard resulting in penalty awards for the visitors that took them into a 5 – 9 lead from the boot of kicker Matt Gingell, slotting three in a row, before Thatcham recovered to retake the lead with another Richardson touch down in the corner from a quick tap penalty deep in the visitors’ 22. Leadley slotted a penalty soon after, but Thatcham were pegged back to 13 – 12 as Gingell added a fourth penalty for the visitors.
Abbey then took a second yellow card and Thatcham capitalised in the final moments of the half after a strong run from Tim Apperley put Mark Smith through to score to the left of the posts. Leadley’s conversion made it 20 – 12 at half time.
Resuming with 14 men, Abbey attacked from the whistle and a fine move saw centre Ross reduce the deficit to 20 – 17, but the home side extended their lead from the re-start as Shaughnessy and Allan combined well to make space for Marty Butler to find the gap and run round under the posts for the bonus point try. Leadley’s conversion re-established the ten point advantage, but Thatcham had Thorogood carded as Abbey were restored to 15 and a long spell of Abbey pressure in the red zone culminated in an unconverted try from the visitors’ prop, Daniels. Thatcham had another chance to take three points, but Leadley’s kick went wide and a tough attritional spell in which the home side conceded numerous penalties eventually resulted in a Postlethwaite try for the visitors. The conversion was missed but the match was now finely poised at 27 points each.
With fifteen minutes left, Thatcham found an extra lift and winning a series of scrums in the Abbey 22, Mark Smith went over the for the try, converted by Joe Leadley. With some daylight between them again, Abbey mounted another attack but after Leadley was carded the visitors surprisingly chose to take a scrum when awarded another penalty ten metres out and in front of the posts. Once again Thatcham drove them off the ball and were able to clear the danger. As the game entered the closing period Thatcham’s Mark Smith and Danny Shaughnessy worked deep to put winger Jack Harwood in for the try out wide. With the pressure off, Danny Shaughnessy stepped forward to convert well from a difficult angle.
In the end Thatcham had earned the victory, but Abbey were competitive throughout and contributed equally to a fine afternoon’s entertainment.
Next week Thatcham play their penultimate fixture away at Aylesbury, kick off 3pm.
1. David Chambers (Jack Caunt); 2. James Thorogood (Jamie Evans); 3. Lewis Davies; 4. Rich Browne; 5. Jack Moore; 6. Tim Apperley; 7. Chris Dixon; ; 8. Mark Smith (Captain); 9. Danny Shaughnessy; 10. Derek Allan; 11. Sean Richardson (Nick Rance); 12. Sam Smith; 13. Marty Butler; 14. Jack Harwood; 15. Joe Leadley
Tries: Richardson (2); M. Smith (2); Butler; Harwood
Conversions: Leadley (3); Shaughnessy